Whether you are married, divorced or widowed or a single parent for other reasons, you will always be asked for proof of your right to take your child out of your home country alone and into another one.
Over the years, I have been asked for proof that I had full legal guardianship of my children for the duration of our travels in the United States, Jamaica, and when re-entering Canada.
I wanted to provide travellers with a form letter of the letter I use in order to make your border crossings go smoother. I have removed all confidential information from this template.
The government of Canada also recommends that parents who have sole custody of their children or share custody of their children due to separation or divorce carry all legal custody documents.
The above form letter will also work when neither parent is crossing the border but the child is crossing with someone else like a grandparent or family friend. Be prepared that if the child is not your child, there will be further investigation done at the border to ensure you are legally allowed to take him or her out of the country. The consent letters do not need to be notarised by a lawyer but there are often significant delays when the letter has not been notarised. You can find more examples of consent letters and information by visiting this link to the Government of Canada website.
The American government does not provide a form letter but requires that the consent letter include who is travelling, where they are going, when and why as well as all the contact information for the non-travelling parent. Again having the letter notarised is not necessary but is highly recommended. If you cross the border often, the American government allows you to present a less detailed letter granting permission to cross the border with the child for up to a year. You can get more information by visiting this link to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
Taking this small step will ensure you can start your vacation without long wait times at the border. Safe travels!