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Need a New Year’s Resolution? Update Your Important Documents!


Need a New Year’s Resolution? Update Your Important Documents!

We recently wrote about certain changes to the Canadian Passport application process had been implemented recently, and that with the holidays approaching it was important for those who intended to travel to ensure their documents were in order.

The truth is, there is no need to wait until travel plans are imminent or until other important milestones occur (such as a marriage or divorce, or a death in the family) to do a little checking up on the state of your important documents. Consider it a New Year’s resolution to add to your list (but one that you actually stick to).

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

• Travel, Health and Medical Information. In addition to making sure that these documents are safeguarded in a secure-but-accessible location, it’s also important to verify that they are current. Is your Passport due to expire soon? Do you have ready access to your Health Card if needed? For any children that you have, are their Immunization Records up-to-date?

• Testamentary Instruments. It’s never a bad idea to review your Will regularly – perhaps every year or two. While this is particularly true where life events have prompted a needed change to designated beneficiaries (for example where there has been a divorce or where a beneficiary under your Will has died), other personal circumstances or simply the sheer passage of time may prompt your wanting a change.

• Insurance and Investments. Similarly, anytime you have designated a beneficiary, for example in connection with your life insurance policy, or in an RRSP, it is important that you give periodic consideration to whether the designation remains appropriate as time passes. You should also give some thought to whether a secondary or residual beneficiary should be named, in case the primary beneficiary passes away first.

• Powers of Attorney. Whether you have a Power of Attorney for Property or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (or both), you should review these documents on a periodic basis and consider whether they still reflect your wishes in the event you become incapacitated.

There are many other documents and personal information that could benefit from a periodic review; this list is merely a good starting point.
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at

New Proof of Parentage Requirements When Travelling with Children

New Proof of Parentage Requirements When Travelling with Children

In my previous blog Top Five Things You Should Know About Passports for Children  I wrote about some of the basics relating to Canadian passports for children.

In a related vein, it’s important for parents to know that effective December 1, 2011, there are new proof-of-parentage requires for applications relating to travel by a child. These requirements are aimed at protecting Canadian children against child abduction, and designed to further enhance the security of the Canadian passport system.

New “proof of parentage” documentation required

After December 1, 2011, for standard passport applications respecting children under the age of 16, the change involves a new requirement:  every application must be accompanied by “proof of parentage” documentation, consisting of either:

• A detailed birth certificate indicating the name of the parent(s) issued by a Canadian provincial or territorial vital statistics agency if the child was born in Canada. This document will serve as both proof of parentage and proof of citizenship.   (Note that for a child born in Ontario, an original and certified copy of birth registration will suffice; for a child born in Quebec, an original copy of an act of birth issued after January 1, 1994 by the Directeur de l’état civil of Quebec is also acceptable);

• An order of adoption indicating the name of the adoptive parent(s); or

•A foreign birth certificate indicating the name of the parent(s) (documents in a language other than English or French must be translated to either English or French) if the child was born outside of Canada.
Parents (or legal guardians) who intend to apply for passports for their child must factor in additional time to acquire the proper documentation.  A failure to provide the documentation will result in the child’s travel documentation application being rejected.


There are certain exceptions to these new requirements; no “proof of parentage” documentation is required in case where all of the following criteria are met:  

•A Canadian travel document has previously been issued to the child in his or her name;

•The previously issued travel document is still valid or expired for less than one year; and

•The previously issued travel document accompanies the new application.
Separation or divorce by child’s parents

In cases where the child’s parents have divorced or separated, any legal documents that refer to the custody, mobility, or access to the child must be provided along with the application and proof of parentage documentation.

If the child’s parents have formally divorced, a copy of the divorce judgment or order must also be provided. Similarly, if a separation agreement exists between the child’s parents, it must also be provided with the passport application.

Russell Alexander Family Lawyers work exclusively on divorce law and family related matters, including custody, spousal support, child support, alimony and separation. We are located in Ontario, and serve the communities of Oshawa, Whitby, Pickering, Ajax, Markham, Brooklin, and City of Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay).

For further information, visit

Top Five Things You Should Know About Passports for Children

Top Five Things You Should Know About Passports for Children

With the holidays fast approaching, and with parents starting to give thought to visiting relatives and planning winter getaways, it’s a good time to revisit the basic points about passport requirements for children.   Here are the top five things Canadians should to know:

1. Children  who travel need a Canadian passport

Back in January of 2007, Passport Canada imposed a number of rules pertaining to passports, which included specific provisions applicable to children.  Specifically:

• All Canadians entering the U.S. by air – including children whether accompanied by a parent or not  – must have a valid Canadian passport.   For these purposes, a “child” is anyone aged three to 16, while an “infant” is anyone under age three.

• As with passports for adults, any child or infant who is a Canadian citizen is eligible to apply; once issued, the passport is good for five years for children, and three years for infants.  

• Children need their own passports to travel abroad (i.e. non-U.S. destinations), even if accompanied by a parent.  

• Children who are not travelling with both parents should carry a “Letter of Consent” which states that both parents agree to the child travelling.   (Although this is not a strict legal requirement, it serves to facilitate a child’s entry into another country).

(As an interesting aside, note that effective 2012, Canadians will have the option of applying for a 10-year passport, and also for an electronic / biometric passports, which will feature electronic chip technology, as well as hidden digital photos, holographic images, and a government signature).

2.  Passport photos

Passport photos for child applications must show the child’s head and shoulders, and must be taken by a professional photographer.
In situations involving infants who need to be held, the parents’ hands and arms may not show in the photo.   Passport Canada is not strict as to an infant’s facial expression on a passport photo, i.e. the infant’s mouth may be open or closed.

3.  The need for children’s passports is dispensed with in some cases

Strictly speaking, children under the age of 15 years are permitted to cross the U.S. border (whether by land or water) without a passport, but must show proof of citizenship (i.e. an original or copy of a Birth Certificate, or an original Canadian citizenship card).  However, children who travel by air must show a passport.
Also, Canadian citizens 18 years of age and under who are travelling with a school or other organized group, under adult supervision and with parental/guardian consent may also present proof of citizenship alone.

4.  Children of separated parents

As a means of preventing child abduction in situations of family discord, the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs and Border Protection Office have certain additional requirements in connection with travel by children of separated parents, when in the company of only one of those parents.
Specifically, the parent with whom the child travels must provide a Notarized Letter of Permission, which is evidence of his or her entitlement to travel with the child.   This letter must include complete contact information for all parents or legal guardians.

5. Renewal

A child’s passport may be renewed up to 12 months before it expires.   Although there is a simplified renewal process for passports issued to adults, it does not apply to passports for children.   Instead, the renewal of a child’s passport requires proof of Canadian citizenship (consisting of either a “Birth Certificate”, or “Certificate of Birth” which has been issued by a provincial/territorial authority in Canada).  If available, a long-form Birth Certificate (which lists both parents) should be presented.

If there is an existing Canadian passport for the child, it must also be provided, together with a certificate of identity or refugee travel document (if applicable).  
If the child’s current passport expires more than 12 months from the date that the application is being made, a written explanation for the early renewal application must be provided.
Note that both the application process and the renewal process take time, and prudent parents must plan accordingly, so that the child’s passport is in hand long before the anticipated trip departure date.

For further information, visit the Passport Canada website at:

Top 10 Things to Know About Children and Passports

Top 10 Things to Know About Children and Passports

With Spring Break coming soon, and summer holidays being just around the corner, it’s a good time to revisit the law in connection with passports for children of parents who are separated or divorced.

1.  All children need their own passports to travel.

Since June 1, 2009 all Canadians, including children travelling to the U.S., must present a document that is compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). For entry into the U.S., this includes a Canadian passport or a NEXUS card when available.

2.  A parent or specified adult must make the application.

Children over age 16 can apply for their own passports. For children under that age, a Canadian federal regulation titled the “Canadian Passport Order” outlines who can apply on the child’s behalf. The list includes:

• One of the child’s parents;

• The custodial parent, in the case of separation or divorce; and

• The child’s legal guardian.

3.  A photo of the child, plus proof of Canadian citizenship is needed for the passport application.

This includes a birth certificate or a certificate of Canadian citizenship. Also, the child should be involved in making the passport application if at all possible; while there is no strict requirement for the child’s presence or participation when a parent or legal guardian applies, the child should ideally be involved and should sign the application form if entitled to do so.

4.  Where the parents are separated or divorced, there are special rules.

In such cases the following stipulations govern:

• The parent with custodial rights may apply on the child’s behalf.

• If joint custody provisions exist, then either parent may apply, but both parents must provide their consent by signing the application.

• In cases where one parent has sole custody, the custodial parent should apply; the consent of the non-custodial is not mandatory if he or she has “reasonable access”.

• If one parent has sole custody but the non-custodial parent has specific access, then his or her signature must appear on the application (although in some specific scenarios, a passport may still issue without it).

5.  All documents relating to child custody, access or mobility should accompany the passport application.

This is to satisfy Passport Canada that the terms of a court order or separation agreement will not be breached if a passport is issued. Therefore, in cases where a divorce has been granted, a copy of the divorce judgment should be provided; similarly, a copy of any separation agreement should be supplied by the parent or parents who make the application.

6.  Mobility restrictions may have to be accounted for.

If, as part of a separation agreement or divorce judgment, there are mobility restrictions in place which place limits on the ability of the child to travel or move residences, then a passport will not be issued, unless:

• the restriction has been removed by a court order;

• the court has issued an authorization to travel; or

• both parents have consented.

7.  If the other parent cannot be located, a court order may be needed.

In cases where the parent making the application cannot locate the other parent, then a court order may be sought, confirming that the custodial parent can apply for a passport without the other parent’s involvement. Alternatively, a statutory declaration attesting to the location of the other parent may be acceptable in some circumstances.

8.  A court order may be necessary if the other parent refuses to co-operate.

If there is joint custody but the other parent refuses to consent to the application, then the parent making the application must obtain a court order allowing for the application to proceed without the needed consent. Also, in cases of high conflict where the parent making the application is fearful of contacting the other parent, or where there is a restraining order in place, the court can make an order allowing the application to proceed without the other parent’s participation. In some cases, Passport Canada may also send a consent form directly to the non-custodial parent for his or her signature.

9.  Separation after-the-fact is irrelevant.

Even if the parents have separated after the child’s passport was issued, the parents remain free to use it. Passport Canada will not ask a parent to return a validly-issued passport in these circumstances, even if custody, access or mobility has changed since the passport was issued.

10.  A Letter of Consent should still accompany the valid passport for travel.

 Even if a valid passport has been issued for the child, any time they are scheduled to travel outside of Canada – whether alone or with one parent or other relative – a Letter of Consent should be obtained from the other parent. This serves as evidence that the child has the consent of both parents to embark on the trip.

The rules surrounding passport applications for children in cases involving separation and divorce will differ according to the facts of each situation. Consultations to explore the issue with Mr. Alexander and or his staff can be arranged by contacting 905.655.6335.

Also, further information other family law and related issues is also available on our main website