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If you have a child who is 15 years old or younger, and you want to get a passport for that child, you're going to need your signature and the signature of the child's other parent in most cases. If you and the other parent have joint custody, you can't get the passport on your own.

Now, there are some ways to get around this in a situation in which both signatures can't be obtained. For example, you can provide:

-- Evidence that you are the only parent the child has, if the other parent is deceased.

-- Evidence that you have sole custody, not joint custody, of the child.

-- Evidence that you've already gained the consent of the other parent.

-- Evidence that you're not the parent at all, but a legal guardian who has spoken with both parents and gotten their consent.

Naturally, only some of these exceptions may apply, depending on the specifics of the situation, but these are the main four that are used, so it's good to know how they work.

The government is so strict about handing out passports because it wants to keep parents from abducting their children to keep them away from the other parent. This has happened in some cases when a divorced parent wants to have sole custody and is instead either given joint custody or not given custody rights at all. It can be quite difficult to bring children back from other countries, so preventing them from leaving is the first step.

As a custodial parent, always be sure that you know your rights and the other parent's rights in California.

Source: U.S. Department of State, "Passport Requirements for Children," accessed April 13, 2016

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