What to Know About Applying For a Child’s Passport After Divorce

Traveling abroad as a family can be an exciting experience. One of the biggest elements of traveling abroad is ensuring you and every member of your family have a valid passport. While there are always several steps involved in the process, there may be even more if you are attempting to obtain a passport for your child after a divorce or if there are other unusual circumstances. There are several steps you should take.

holding passport near carryon bag

Communicate With the Other Parent

This step is important. If you are on good terms with your ex-spouse, this should be relatively easy. However, if your ex decides that they aren’t okay with you taking the child(ren) out of the country and are putting up a fight, it’s important to check your custody agreement. This will be able to tell you, based on the circumstances, if you can act without your ex’s consent. 

Review Custody Agreements

You should review your custody agreements very early on. Some custody orders might say the child can’t travel out of the country. This will affect getting a passport. According to a Boulder child custody lawyer, in Colorado, parenting plans are mandated. Once they are approved they are legally binding. Modifying this plan would require involving the court. If you are in the process of getting a divorce and creating a custody agreement, this can be a topic to cover if you are thinking about international travel in the future. 

Understanding Parental Consent

While there generally needs to be parental consent for any child receiving a passport, it may vary slightly depending on the child’s age. 

Between Ages 16-17

If your child is between the ages of 16 to 17, they will be able to apply for a passport as long as they show at least one parent has awareness that they are applying. There are several ways this parental awareness can be shown

  • Go With Them – The legal parent or guardian appearing with the child to apply for the passport. The agent of the employee accepting the application will ask the legal parent or guardian to sign for DS-11. For this, ensure to bring a photocopy of their ID.
  • A Signed Note – The child can submit a signed note for the legal parent or guardian as well as a photocopy of their ID
  • Proof of Payment – Showing and submitting that your legal parent or guardian is paying for the application fee. This can be shown with their name written on a check or money order.
  • A Notarized Statement – The child may be asked to submit Form DS-3053 with the parent stating they support the child receiving a passport. A photocopy of the parent’s ID must also be submitted. 

Under the Age of 16

To get a passport for a child under 16, both parents usually need to agree. There are a few ways this can happen:

  • Go Together – If both parents are available, they can go together to the appointment to apply.
  • Notarized Authorization – If one parent can’t make it, they can fill out a separate form (Form DS-3053) from the U.S. Department of State to show they agree and give it to the parent who will be at the appointment. Please note, this form must be notarized. 

There may be special circumstances where one or both parents cannot make it. Some options can be done:

  • Sole Custody – is a case where one parent has sole custody, they’ll need to provide legal documents like court orders, a death certificate of the parent that cannot appear, or a birth with them listed as the sole parent. 
  • Unable to Locate a Parent – if in the unfortunate event, the other parent cannot be found, submit a Form DS-5525 “Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances”. Additional evidence such as a custody order, incarceration order, or restraining order can also be provided. 
  • Military Deployment – if the other parent is deployed, Form DS-3053 should be submitted as well. If contact is not able to be established with the deployed parent, Form DS-5525 alongside military orders should be submitted or a signed statement from the commanding officer of the deployed parent stated that they can’t be reached. 
  • Neither Parent Can Apply – it is possible that a third party can apply for the child’s passport. Form 3053 or a notarized statement from both parents or guardians giving the third-party permission to apply for the child should be submitted. 

Making An Appointment 

If you can proceed with getting a passport for your children, start looking into scheduling an appointment. Usually, you need to apply in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. You can go to the site and enter your city or zip code and see what options you have near you. The wait times to get an appointment could be, surprisingly, weeks or even months. If you and your ex decide to both go, ensure you choose a date that works for both of you. Some locations may allow for walk-in appointments, but do some research as the hours may be limited. If you decide to go this route, be prepared to wait. 

Additional Resources

For a full list of what to bring with you for a passport application, you can check out the U.S. Department of State passport website for children. They have lots of helpful stuff.

For legal help with family issues, there are resources available too. You’re not alone in this.

Support groups or organizations for divorced parents can provide a lot of support and advice. It’s good to have people who understand what you’re going through. Contacting a family law attorney who specializes in child custody can be helpful. Some will provide consultations to review your case and present your options for how to move forward.

Getting a passport for your child after a divorce can be a bit of a challenge. It’s important to communicate openly with the other parent and try to work things out together. But if you hit roadblocks, there are resources and support available to help you through it. Remember, proactive planning can save a lot of headaches down the road.


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