Divorced parents often have a whole new set of rules to learn about traveling with their own children. While taking a weekend trip up to a cabin or theme park typically poses no issue, international travel and cruises can be a cause for concern. This is because many cruise ships travel out more than two hundred miles from shore and are thus in international waters.
Cruises from Virginia to Bahamas or Puerto Rico
There are cruises that depart seasonally from Virginia. These ships typically embark from Norfolk. The usual trip course is to the Bahamas, which does require a passport. A visa is not required for trips to the Bahamas that are shorter than 90 days. What some parents do not realize is that because Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques and Culebra are U.S. territories, a passport is not required. The same is true of the U.S. Virgin Islands, no passport is required. This means a parent could think that because these areas are technically a part of the U.S. no international travel has happened and permission from the other parent is not required.
Parents with sole custody
It is true that a parent who has sole custody of their child or children does not need permission from the other parent to travel domestically or abroad. Parents with sole custody will have to provide their court-ordered custody arrangement to get the child’s passport. Each custody arrangement is unique however, so ensure that you understand what your agreement says.
Parents with joint custody
If you have joint custody and your child is under 16 then both parents will need to grant permission and the child will need a passport. Again, child custody arrangements can vary from one family to another, so be sure to review your agreement before taking a trip.
What Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends
If both parents are not traveling with your child then it is strongly advised by CBP that you get a note from the other parent saying something akin to: “I acknowledge that (person) is traveling out of the country with my child. I have given my permission to (person) do to this.” This note is helpful for authorities to prevent child abductions and to identify illegal activity such as sex trafficking. If grandparents, aunts or uncles or other relatives are traveling with the child, be sure they have all of the required forms given the age of your child.