Every person, regardless of age, must have a passport to travel out of the country. Initial passport applications for children under sixteen (16) years of age must be made in person. Both parents of the child should be present. If one of the parents cannot be physically present, they may complete a parental consent form instead. This form must be notarized and a copy of the parent’s ID must accompany the form. There are exceptions to the requirement of the consent of both parents including court order or proof of sole custody. Additionally, there is an application to obtain passport without the other parent on the basis of exigent circumstances and the unavailability of the other parent. You can visit the U.S. Department of State website for additional details on the requirements to obtain a passport at travel.state.gov.
If you are a single parent you should make sure your custody agreement is clear about where the children can travel. A good custody order will dictate that international travel may only be by written consent of both parties or court order. Parents should pay attention to which country the other parent intends to travel to with the child and whether that country belongs to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and would recognize a U.S. custody order if necessary. Additionally, all details of the itinerary and contact information for the child while away should be provided in advance. The Department of State also handles international child abduction if you encounter a custody problem while your child is out of the country.