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22nd Oct 2021

Opinion: Parents with different surnames are being asked to carry their child’s birth cert to travel but is it legal?

Melissa Carton

“Can you prove that this child is yours?”

How do you even begin to answer that question as a parent? But it’s exactly what I was asked.

A couple of years ago I was taking a last minute trip to the UK with my son and was stopped on my arrival by a member of the airport’s security staff.

Everything was going as per usual on our trip, until I handed in our passports at the British security check.

The staff member looked at me like I had done something gravely wrong and pulled myself and my son aside. I had no idea what was going on.

That’s when the interrogation began.

Another member of staff took my seven-year-old son off of me and asked if I could prove that he was really my child.

I was asked to produce his birth certificate which I didn’t have. I have travelled solo with both of my children before and this was the first time I had been asked for their birth cert, or to prove in any way that my child was mine.

I was eventually let through when I produced evidence of all the things that I had booked for our trip, including our return flights. And when my son confirmed that I was, in fact, his mother.

It was extremely frightening. I know the idea behind the questioning, but my son was happily skipping as we approached with our passports and even though we’re not the spitting image of each other, we definitely look related.

I know several other parents that this has happened to, all because they have a different surname to their child. Some have even been completed stopped from travelling, because they weren’t carrying their child’s birth cert.

If it happens so frequently, is it actually legal?

No, it is not.

There is no legal requirement for a parent to carry additional identification for their child, such as their birth cert.

While it is something that can save a lot of grief, if it’s not a legal requirement then why are parents being denied travel?

It doesn’t even make sense to just stop the parent that has a different surname, as many cases of child abduction in the past have been by a parent with the same surname as the child. How would a birth cert prevent those abductions?

Up until a few years ago children and their parent (usually their mother) shared the same passport so this wasn’t really an issue. Now Irish children have their own passports but oftentimes have different surnames to their parents.

My parents were never married so I always had my mother’s maiden name on all of my identification so my dad could have ended up in the same situation as me when I was a child.

Many Irish women now choose to keep their own name after marriage, as I did, and because of this are being stopped regularly while trying to travel with their children.

If airport security wants one parent to carry extra ID for their child, then they need to actually make it a legal travel requirement and not leave it in a grey area of maybe you do and maybe you don’t.

It makes me concerned about trying to travel with my children in future as I hate the idea of travelling with their original birth cert in case it gets lost. It may just have to come down to giving them double barrel surnames when I’m next renewing their passports.

Regardless it’s something that is putting parents under unnecessary pressure every day and really needs to be addressed, because treating parents like criminals simply for trying to bring their children on holiday is far from ok.