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What you should know if your child travels by air alone

When divorced parents live a long distance apart, their children may fly back and forth between their parents' homes for vacations and other visits. When children who are young are flying without an adult, they're referred to as "unaccompanied minors."

Airlines have different age limits for when a child is no longer considered a minor as well as varying rules about the lowest age at which children can travel unaccompanied. However, parents can generally elect to pay the additional fee for kids over the airlines' age limit if they want them to receive this additional assistance and supervision by airline personnel both at the airport and on their flights.

Airline fees for the unaccompanied minor service vary significantly. Of course, the parents' key priority is to get their children from one home to another safe and sound. However, if you have a choice of airlines, it's also wise to compare the airlines' policies and fees, which ones have nonstop flights and what other parents have to say about the airlines' unaccompanied minor service.

It's also essential to know what the airline requires of parents or guardians who bring children to the airport and pick them up. Parents may need passes to accompany their children as far as the gate. They should also be prepared to provide a copy of the child's birth certificate in case there's any question about his or her age.

Another issue to consider is whether your child, no matter what his or her age, is mature enough to fly alone. We all know that unexpected things happen when traveling by air. There could be turbulence, a mechanical issue with the plane or an unruly passenger. All of these can be upsetting to even adults who fly regularly. There can be delays and diversions that cause the plane to land in an unexpected airport or for your child to miss a connecting flight.

Unaccompanied airline travel for your child is something that should probably be addressed in your parenting plan so that you and your co-parent are in agreement on how you will handle it. If it wasn't an issue when you divorced, but one of you has since moved some distance away, you may need to amend your parenting plan to cover it. Your New York family law attorney can provide you with important guidance.

Source: The New York Times, "When It Costs Double to Let Your 12-Year-Old Fly Alone Your Money," Ron Lieber, Jan. 05, 2018

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