Travel is a wonderful way to introduce your child to various cultures, but as a single parent you may face some challenges getting a passport for your child. Not having a good relationship with the noncustodial parent doesn't mean you can't get a passport, but it definitely makes it more difficult. There are some exceptions to the two parent requirement for obtaining a child's passport, but they are fairly stringent in nature.
Sole custody documentation:
If you have a court order granting you sole custody as the guardian of your child, you may apply for a passport for your child without the other parent's consent. You may also bring evidence such as a death certificate for the other parent, or a court order which states you may travel abroad with your child. A judicial declaration of incompetence of the non-custodial parent is also sufficient. Sole custody must be proven with documentation. This may seem strict, but the guidelines are in place to prevent parents in custody battles from taking children overseas to live, without the consent of both parents.
Inability to locate the noncustodial parent:
Often, a custodial parent will assume that the non-custodial parent isn't needed to obtain a passport, as long as the non-custodial parent is absent most of the time or doesn't comply with visitation. This is false. Even if the non-custodial parent hasn't seen your child in 2 years, but still legally has parental rights, both parents are still required for passport issuance. The exception to this rule is the inability to locate the noncustodial parent. However, you must provide the proper documentation of this fact. Passport issuance for children is very strict. Often, child support enforcement agencies can provide valid documentation that the noncustodial parent cannot be located.
If you face a situation where the noncustodial parent is in agreement concerning your child's passport but lives in another state, there is a form that can be filled out and notarized, called the DS 5053 Statement of Consent. The non-custodial parent can simply return it to you after having it notarized, and you may take it with you to apply for your child's passport. Simply ask for the form when you visit a passport issuance location.
Over the age of 16:
If your child is over the age of 16, he or she may apply for a passport without the consent of either parent, as long as proper identification can be provided, such as a birth certificate and state issued driver's license.
These are the only exceptions to the two parent requirement concerning passport issuance for all children under the age of 16. If you face a difficult legal situation, it's best to speak with an attorney like Nelson Law Group PC concerning foreign travel for your children.