Passport Applications | A bureaucratic headache for some separated parents

For some separated parents, whose case is a special one, extending their children’s passports is a real problem. Stacks of documents to be provided, endless phone calls, legal fees… the gray areas of the system force these people to follow a grueling bureaucratic process.

Posted at 12:00 p.m

William Theriault

William Theriault
The press

In April 2021, Isabelle Vallée sent a passport application for her teenager. Fourteen months and a dozen calls a few hours later, her son is still waiting for his new official documents.

In 2018, Isabelle Vallée and her husband formally announced their separation after 22 years of living together. In their divorce contract, it was agreed that the father would have custody of the two children on weekdays. For her part, Isabelle would have her for weekends and holidays. It was easier this way: the father lived 10 minutes from the school. Then, on July 16, 2020, he suddenly died in his sleep.

A parent must house their children at least 40% of the time for joint custody to be considered, notes Ms.e Benoit Thibault, family attorney. With weekends and public holidays, Isabelle Vallée fell below this threshold. Her ex-husband officially had sole custody of the children.


Me Benoit Thibault, family attorney

Isabelle Vallée presented the death certificate to the federal government as requested by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). She also sent a copy of her divorce decree, but that wasn’t enough.

Instead, the federal officials to whom she tried to explain her situation asked her to produce a judgment proving she was “the children’s mother and legal guardian.” “These provisions protect the rights of all parties while attempting to prevent child abduction,” IRCC says.

Me Véronique Jacques, a lawyer who hired Isabelle Vallée to find a solution, regrets the fact that her client has to prove her relationship with her children. “Custody returned to him automatically [après le décès], She explains. The court [de divorce] has no value anymore. As [son ex-mari] Can he exercise custody if he’s dead? »

Going to court to obtain a judgment that would change custody of the children is one option. However, in the eyes of Mr.e Benoit Thibault, since the father is dead.

“The death certificate should suffice, continues Mr.e Jacques. We should stop asking the question. The children are already devastated that their father has passed away and there is a possibility that they will not be able to travel. I find that regrettable. It’s a lack of judgement. »

“I could not anymore”

Isabelle Vallée is confused: the papers she has are enough for her son’s driver’s license and health insurance card. The passport story has cost her thousands of dollars in legal fees that she can no longer afford. All that for a $57 document. “And you must know the $57 was taken,” she fumed.

“The last time I called [Service Canada]That was in April, reveals the mother of the family. I waited five hours… They told me on the phone that I’m 575e nobody is waiting. »

We also had to settle the death, the papers, with my ex’s brother to the notary, with the children to the psychologist … Every step was hard. I was on the verge of being emotionally drained. It’s not depression, but I couldn’t take it anymore. It was a lot.

Isabelle Vallee

Rare, but no exception

According to Me Benoit Thibault, who has practiced family law for more than 20 years, an unusual problem, but one that affects a certain segment of the population.

For example, he mentions a case where the parents are in the process of separation. “It doesn’t happen often, but enough to show that these aren’t exceptional,” says Me Thibault.

For passport applications from divorced parents, Service Canada must receive each of the judgments related to the separation. Me Thibault strives to understand the importance of dispatching people who have been rendered incapacitated.

“I want to make it clear to officers that the only judgment they need is the one in effect on the date of the application,” he argues. It’s more than logical. »

In response, IRCC simply states that “any documents relating to custody, mobility or contact with the child must be submitted with the application”. The federal authority does not provide any further details.

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