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Is your child ready to fly as an unaccompanied minor?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2024 | Family Law

The term “unaccompanied minor” has a frightening connotation for some people. Celebrities and children of celebrities have written about how it felt to fly alone back and forth across the country or internationally between divorced parents. Unaccompanied minors typically make the news only when they end up in the wrong city alone. Children fly as unaccompanied minors (UM) all the time – usually without incident. Many enjoy the sense of independence and adventure it gives them.

If you co-parent, and you and your co-parent live some distance apart, this may be the best way for your child to spend time with both of you. However, it takes some research and planning – and some cooperation with your co-parent. Each airline’s UM program has its own requirements, costs and services, so it’s crucial to find one that best fits your child’s needs — and flies non-stop between your destinations. You don’t want your child to have to change planes. Some airlines will only allow UMs on non-stop flights.

How old does your child have to be?

While the age ranges vary, many are available to kids as young as 5. Younger teens typically can’t fly alone unless they’re flying as a UM, but for older ones, it may be optional whether they use the program. Whether your child is mature and responsible enough to fly alone is up to you. These programs typically involve an airline representative meeting the parent and child at the gate and bringing the child aboard the plane and to their seat. At the end of the flight, they accompany them off the plane and to their other waiting parent.

While the airline staff are supposed to keep an eye on the child throughout the flight, they can’t babysit them. That means your child needs to be able to keep themselves occupied with games, books or videos during the flight.

It’s crucial for co-parents to agree that their child is ready to fly alone. Besides that, it’s important to work out how the cost of the flights (including the UM program fees) will be split, how often your child will make these trips and when. If this is going to be a regular routine, it should be incorporated into your child custody and support agreements and your parenting plan. Having experienced legal guidance can help.


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