Applying for Your Child’s Passport After Divorce? Plan Ahead

If you’re divorced and planning a big vacation with your kids outside the U.S. there’s one crucial detail to remember: Apply for their passports ASAP.

All children — even newborns — are required to have a passport for international travel. When your child is under the age of 16 and you share custody, both parents must demonstrate consent. Not only do your children need to be present for the in-person application appearance, your ex will need to be there, too. This is just one step in the process that can take months to complete — and rightfully so. These strict guidelines are in place to protect the welfare of your children.

Step 1: Communicate your plans to your ex

This first step is essential. If your ex is not on board with your plans to take the kids to Spain for a month, you may not be going abroad. Check the terms of your custody arrangement to see if you have the right to act without your ex’s consent. If parents share custodial rights through joint legal custody, each parent generally has a right to oppose major decisions related to the minor child’s life. If you think your travel plans may cause a problem, talk to your attorney about the terms of your divorce agreement.

Remember, the standard turn-around time is two months to receive a passport once the application is received. You don’t need your child’s passport to book their airline ticket, but make sure you give yourself enough time before your departure date to have your child’s passport in hand.

Step 2: Make an appointment or set your application date

Passport applications require that you apply in person at an official passport acceptance office(typically at a local US Post Office, Public Library or other authorized locale.) Many locations require you to schedule an appointment in advance — and the wait time for an appointment can be weeks or months. Other locations allow for walk-ins, but may have limited hours allotted for receiving applications. Be sure and check the schedule before you go and be prepared to wait in line.

Step 3: Get a Passport Photo

A passport photo must follow certain criteria. For example, the photo must be taken within the past six months and cannot be a selife! Many drug store photo departments provide this service for a nominal cost. You may also be able to have your photo taken at the passport acceptance facility where you are applying for the passport. Check locations to find out if this service is available.

Step 4: Download and Fill Out Form DS-11

You will need your child’s Social Security number or provide a signed, written declaration that your child has not been issued one.

Step 5: Provide Evidence of Citizenship

You will need an original or certified copy of your child’s birth certificate or their expired passport. Make a photocopy of the front and back to submit.

Step 6: Provide evidence of Parental Relationship

You must submit documentation that lists the parent or parents or legal guardian(s) of the child applying for the passport. This documentation can be your child’s U.S. birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, foreign birth certificate, adoption decree or divorce/custody decree. Again, these documents should be originals or certified copies.

Step 7: Present ID

Both parents/guardians must present one of the following IDs to the agent who is taking the passport application: Valid driver’s license, valid or expired US passport, certification of nationalization or citizenship, government employee ID, US military ID, valid foreign passport or Matricula Consular. If you present out-of-state identification, you must show a second form of ID. Make a photocopy of the front and back of your ID(s) to submit.

Step 8: Demonstrate Parental Consent

Both custodial parents have to consent for a passport to be issued. The best and most efficient way to accomplish this task is for both parents to go with the child to the application office in person to apply for the passport.

If one parent is unable to appear in person, they can give permission by completing Form DS-3053 “Statement of Consent.” The parent must submit the completed, notarized form along with a photocopy of the front and back side of his or her ID.

If you have sole legal authority, you must provide evidence of that right. In the case of divorce, this means providing the complete court order granting your sole legal custody (your divorce decree or other custody order would have this info,) or a complete court order specifically permitting you to apply for your child’s passport.

Step 9: Pay the fees and submit application

Standard fees are charged for passport applications. You may also be able to pay extra to have the application expedited or delivered more quickly once the passport is ready. You can eventrack the status of your child’s passport.

For children ages 16-17 there is a similar process, and parents must still show awareness that their child has applied for a passport; however, the requirements are less strict.  If the teen has his or her own current identification document (ID), they may apply for a passport by showing that at least one parent or guardian knows that they are applying.

Parental awareness for 16 and 17-year-olds may take the form of the legal guardian appearing in person and signing a form DS-11 witnessed by the passport acceptance agent. Or the parent must send along a signed statement notarized consenting issuance with a photocopy (back and front) or their ID.

Passport applications may be denied if the Passport Agency has received a written objection from a parent or legal guardian. For more information, please see Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.

Remember, children under the age of 16 are required to have their passports renewed every five years and must reapply in person following the same instructions as outlined above.Understanding the guidelines outlined by the State Department will help ensure that this process goes smoothly. Communicate your intentions with your ex and apply well in advance of your intended travel dates, and your family will be jetting off for that international vacation as planned.