This Month’s Hot Topics – Notarially speaking!

The vexed question of a Notary’s duty in dealing with Parental Consents to travel has been causing more head-scratching.

As my earlier blogs have pointed out, it is always wise and sometimes essential, if a child is to travel abroad without both parents, for the non-travelling parent to issue a Notarised form of consent.

This will enable Border Guards and Airlines to tick their “compliance” box so that they can be as sure as possible that they are not unwittingly assisting a child kidnap scenario.

Some Notaries are worried by the question of whether in witnessing such a consent they are warranting to the world that the consenting parent is authorised to be in charge of the child’s travelling arrangements.

Imagine a mother attending a Notary to give consent for her child to travel with its grandmother to join the child’s father in Spain for a surprise on his birthday. She explains that father cannot attend to give his consent because he is in Spain.

If the Notary refuses, he maybe spoils the lovely birthday party for the family.

But if the Notary goes ahead, what will he say to the father, when Grandmother has in fact taken the child to Colombia where Mother has joined them and they are never coming home?

And the position is further complicated by the fact that not every parent, has parental rights. Maybe a Court has taken control.

How is a Notary to know whether two parents [even though they both attend with passports, marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate etc.] have the right to consent to their child travelling? Say, travelling with an Uncle to Pakistan – when perhaps the child has actually last week been committed by the Court into the care of a Social worker or Foster-Parent from whom the parents are trying to kidnap the child?

Millions of innocent journeys abroad must be made every year by children travelling with only one parent or with adults who are not their parents. On the other hand, I understand that some 1200 or more allegations of child kidnapping are reported to the UK police every month.

Is nothing simple, I sometimes wonder? No, nothing is, is the only answer. Every case is different and getting it right in the end usually depends upon the Notary’s knowledge and experience, with a significant dash of gut instinct in the mix as well.