What You Should Know when Your Child Is an “Unaccompanied Minor”

By Law Office of Karen S. Brown

We’re getting into one of the most popular times of year for children of separated and divorced parents to travel in and out of LAX as “unaccompanied minors.” If you and your co-parent have already worked out the financial details and agreed that your child has reached the age and maturity needed to fly on their own, a big part of your work is done.

All airline unaccompanied minor (UM) programs have their own age restrictions (typically between 5 and 15), fees, services provided to the child (and parents) and document requirements. It’s best to find an airline that offers non-stop flights between your locations. This minimizes the chance of your child having to navigate an in-between airport on their own or missing a connecting flight.

It’s also wise to find out how far you can accompany your child at the airport before they get on their flight, when an airline employee will take over and just what they will do for your child. Remember that they aren’t babysitters. Your child should be able to sit quietly and entertain themselves with games or books for the length of the flight.

Identification and Documentation Are Key

Ensure that your child has plenty of ID on them and in their carry-on luggage and emergency contact information for you and your co-parent. They’ll probably get a tracking wristband from the airline, but it’s smart to put an AirTag in their backpack.

It may help if they carry copies of the same documentation present at the airport when you check your child in. This can include:

If your child is flying into another country, it’s important to find out if any additional documentation is required at their destination.

Why Your Child May Face Scrutiny

As you likely know, airport security personnel and airline employees are trained to watch for children who are being trafficked. While single parents traveling with children (particularly when they’re of different races) are most often the target of suspicion, questioning and detainment, an unaccompanied minor can also raise suspicions. Again, having plenty of documentation on them can help prevent your child from enduring intrusive questions.

Getting a new consent to travel letter is crucial whenever your child is traveling with one of their parents or alone. It’s important to have legal guidance when drawing one up and codifying it. This can make the journey less (negatively) eventful for everyone