It is not uncommon for a parent to have a different surname to their child. I for one, do not share the same surname with my boys. My children’s father and I are not married so I still have my maiden name but my children’s surname is the same as their fathers. There are millions of children living with cohabiting, unmarried parents.
This can become a problem when travelling abroad with your children and your partner is not with you.
Two years ago I was travelling from Malta with my three boys and my mum. At the passport control I was asked what my relationship to the boys were. I told them I was their Mum and they asked why I had a different surname to them. I had to explain that I was not married to their father and that myself and my mum had been on holiday with the boys for half term and their father was at home in England. They even asked my son, who was 8 at the time, who I was to him. He answered without a thought, looking rather puzzled by the whole situation but later on he did ask me why they were asking him such questions.
I was lucky on this occasion that I was not turned away, but they do have the right to refuse entry/exit as a duty of care to protect children and to screen for child abduction.
The passport system does not recognise that children might have different surnames. The child’s passport only lists their name, date and place of birth. There is nothing on their that shows the border control who their parents are. The passports are out of date and have not kept up with the modern family.
The man at border control said that by looking at the children he could tell that they were comfortable in being with me and that next time he strongly advises me to bring along documentation to prove that they are my children and a letter from their father stating that I can take them out of the country.
The madness of it all was that I had already got them out of the country with no problems but it was getting back home that was the problem. If I was refused to exit the country then I wouldn’t have been able to bring my boys home to their father.
UK passports should make it easier for families to travel, not make it difficult. It isn’t the most important issue but it can delay the process at the border control and it can be very humiliating experience. Not only for yourselves but a knock on effect in delaying the people behind you. It’s stressful enough travelling with young children and then you have to prove that your own offsprings belong to you in front of others around you. It’s unfair that unmarried parents are being subjected to harassment and delays because they choose not have the same surname as their children. What if a parent is divorced in a unpleasant situation?
Last year I travelled to Paris with my children, again on my own and not with their Father. I took along their birth certificates – which has my name on them, proving that I am their Mother. We travelled via Eurostar and changed at Lille. We managed to get through the border control for France without them asking any questions but taking only a few steps and we was at the UK border control where they asked for proof that the children were mine. This time I had come prepared and handed over their birth cerificates and although they were happy with the documents I was handing over they advised me to also carry a signed letter from their Dad. How this makes a difference, I don’t know! Anyone can write a letter and pretend that they are the other parent to the child. Maybe it would have to be signed in front of officials in order for it be acknowledged as parental proof.
Parents do not have to go through this embarrassment of proving their parental right if a simple piece of data was added on to the child’s passport. In order for me to apply for the children’s passports I had to send of both parents passports and details to the passport agency. So, it should be on file somewhere, and it’s no good being on file in an office in England if it can not be used at border control. I don’t want to carry the child’s birth certificates with me whilst travelling, but to save the embarrassment of being harassed at border control, I have to.