Getting Your Child A U.S. Passport When You Are The Custodial Parent

Getting your child a passport as the custodial parent

My eldest daughter turns sixteen this year. To honor this milestone we gave her two options. Have the traditional soiree known as the, “Sweet Sixteen” party, or take an epic trip. It was no surprise that a child who wants to major in International Studies chose the trip. What did surprise me were the hoops we’d have to jump through to get her passport.

You see I have the honor of being her custodial parent. I’m beyond grateful to my ex-husband for making the sacrifices he has, they’ve allowed me the joy of getting to watch her grow into the amazing woman I know she’ll be. He and I have made every effort to co-parent, which can be hard when you live on opposite coasts.

Bumps in the road, caused by the physical distance between her parents,  have been few and far between. So when it came to getting her passport, neither of us figured there would be any big issues. He’d sign a form, we’d go down to the office, she’d be ready to take off for Ireland.


It turns out that there are a number of extra steps in obtaining a passport for a minor child when their parents are divorced. Here are are some of the questions we had, answers to which came in the form of a lesson learned.

How Long Will It Take?

At the time this post is being written, the average processing time for a passport book (just the book, not the card) is 4 to 6 weeks. You can pay for expedited processing, which will have the passport in your hand in 3 weeks. Need it faster? Go directly to an Agency office – not a third party authorized processing location, like a post office– and you can have it in 8 days, pending approval of need. Generally this means there is some sort of extenuating circumstance, like medical need or bereavement. 

How Much Does It Cost?

For minors (under age 16) the fee for the first application is $95 plus a $25 processing fee. If you need expedited service that will set you back an extra $60. For the most accurate and up-to-date info on fees, be sure to use the calculator on the State Department’s U.S. Passports & International Travel website.  

What Documents Will I Need?

Since this post is specifically about obtaining a passport for a child who’s parents are divorced, I’ll address that.

  1. Proof of Citizenship: Certified U.S. Birth Certificate.  OR Naturalization Document, Certificate of Citizenship, Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  ORIGINALS not copies! You will get your document(s) back with your child’s passport.  
  2. Evidence of Parental Relationship – a document that lists you as the parent: U.S. or foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, divorce/custody decree.
  3. Photo Identification – for all parities. Make a copy of the front AND back of each ID. For example I made copies of her school ID, her father’s and my driver’s licenses.
    NOTE: If the parent who is not present at the appointment does not reside in the same state, you MUST provide TWO forms of ID for them. I missed this information on the website . As a result we had to make a second appointment which delayed things by two more weeks!
  4. Parental Consent – both parents must be present. Here is where it gets complicated for custodial parents (like me). If one parent can not be there you’ll need to have them complete a Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent. This must be notarized
  5. Passport Photo - here is a good resource for DIY passport photos if you’d rather not stop by say a CVS or Costco and have one “professionally” done.
  6. Application Forms – here are links to PDF versions of the forms DS-11 and DS-3035 Statement of Consent DS-5525  Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstance. note: all these forms are also available online at the State Department website. ALSO if you are filling the forms out by hand, be SURE to use black ink. YES, I failed to do that as well! 
  7. Passport Fees – See Above.

After a few hiccups, and maybe more than a full hair-pulling sessions, we got her all set to go. It’s off to Ireland for her first visit there, my third and tagging along will be her Grandfather, returning to his ancestral home for the first time. I can’t wait to experience the Emerald Isle through their eyes! 

Note: As we all know, Government processes change often. I’ve provided these tips as a guide based on my personal experience. That said, be sure to double check with the State Department before applying for your child’s passport.

Should You Rent A Vacation Home?

A soft breeze dances through your hair, bringing with them the briny scent of the sea. Echos of crashing waves mix with the songs of seagulls as you dig your toes deep into warm sand digging for that cool spot beneath. There is nothing like beach life. If you’re planning this year’s escape to the shore, you should be thinking about renting a beach house.

Yes, I am advocating turning your back on turn-down service, giving up housekeeping and traveling concierge free.

I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock.

Wild Horses of the Outer Banks -Renting vs Hotels - Beachfront Stays

When the suggestion of renting a beach house in lieu of hotel was first made I scoffed, openly. My memory of rented beach houses involved condos packed in like sardines along the California coastline, and inhabited by Frat Boys, drunken twenty-somethings, and transplanted surfers. Nope, I was sticking to Egyptian cotton sheets and room service, thank-you-very-much.

Then I started to do a little research. As it turns out there are plenty of perks to beach house rentals:

  • There aren’t many hotels that offer on the beach (not just beachfront) properties. Renting a home can give you “total access” that is well worth the price tag.
  • Should you have more than the ‘standard’ 2.5 offspring, like I do, the cost of beach house rental can actually work out to less than the cost of a hotel.
  • There is something relaxing about having a kitchen to cook in, rather than eating out for every meal.
  • You can save money by having meals at home. (see above)
  • If you shop right, there won’t be a Frat Boy in site!

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

You do have to do some leg work though. We started renting beach houses four years ago. Resources are leaps and bounds above where they were then. Sites like Airbnb, Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), FilpKey, and HomeAway make finding the right house both easier, and not. You really have to know what you’re looking for when you wade into these waters.

Consider This…

How close is the beach? If you have to schlep your kids and gear a mile to get to the sunny shore, you might want to reconsider.

Is the beach access public or private? Public beaches tend to be more crowded, but also have several points of access to the shore. Private beaches can be less crowded, yet can also be harder to get to.

 Lifeguard on duty? Be sure to check with your rental company to see if your beach has Lifeguard service. If it does not, be sure to have a plan for water emergencies.

How do you access your beach house? See “Know The Road” below for why this is an important consideration.

Be sure about the type of beach you are visiting. More info below.

Get a detailed outline of what amenities are included in your rental. Do you need to bring towels, kitchen utensils, laundry items, toiletries? Where is the closest place to restock, if you need to?

What other activities are available beyond the beach?

Get to “know” who you’re renting from. There are a lot of large rental companies that offer amenity packed, “tracked” homes which could be a perfect fit for you, or not. There are also tons of independent home owners and smaller rental companies that offer more personal service. Know who and what you’re dealing with.

Don’t see photos that show you want you want but you really like the ones you see? Ask for more. We failed to do this with last year’s rental and ended up with a “beach” that was really just a corner of sand off the retaining wall of the property. The owner was a Real Estate broker skilled in using adjectives to disguise the shortcomings.

Know The Road

This applies mostly to beaches on the East Coast of the United States. I don’t recall beaches in on the West Coast or in my travels in Europe, where you could drive on the beach. There are hundreds of properties in North Carolina alone that are accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles.

Lesson 1: Four Wheel Drive (4WD) and All Wheel Drive are not the same.

Lesson 2: When the sign says “Only Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Beyond This Point”, pay attention. It isn’t a suggestion. When staying at a 4WD accessible home, we  personally helped a couple push their Prius out of the sand. Each day brought a new crop of cars stuck in the sand. The cost of having your car towed back to the road can be upwards of $250.  

Lesson 3: Bring quarters and a tire gauge. You’ll need to air-down (let air out of) your tires before hitting the beach. When you come back to the paved road you’ll need to put that air back, facilitating the need for quarters at the air pump and a gauge to make sure you get it right.  

Be Sure About The Beach

As I mentioned above, doing your research can help you avoid getting stuck in a corner (literally) One summer we rented a gorgeous home in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The beach was beautiful but brutal. The shore was rocky to the point of being nearly impossible to traverse, the ocean floor – even worse. This was a shock for us, and for our feet which were not protected with water shoes.  Be sure to ask the rental owner about the condition, size and location of the beach relative to the home.  

Read The Fine Print

Rental homes come with contracts, most written by legal types who love to play the word game. You know, the one that makes you go cross-eyed and sign just to get away from the monotonous gobbledygook. Force yourself to… Read. It. All. Then ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Never send cash or a check – ever. If the owner isn’t willing to take the hit on the measly credit card fees, that should be a red flag.   




Good Morning Sunshine!


A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

Take Pictures

Not just great shots of the sun rising out of the waves, or the kids lounging on the deck. Take photos of every room when you arrive. Make sure they are time/date stamped (any smartphone has this option) and do the same when you leave. We’ve only had one property take anything from the security and cleaning deposit. We were charged for a broken fixture that wasn’t broken when we left. Oddly enough, this was the same property with the bite-sized beach.

Yes, there is a lot to consider when renting a vacation property. That said, of all the travel we do – and we DO – rental homes from the beach to Tuscany, have been among some of our favorite stays.

photo credit: Podere Salicotto
photo credit: Podere Salicotto

Oh, did I just drop Tuscany on ya? Stay tuned for tips on renting villas and townhomes in Europe!

Foodie Nirvana Found: Iron Rooster, Annapolis

Crispy Pork Belly Fried Green Tomato Lettuce and a Poached Egg the BLT & E at Iron Rooster, Annapolis, MarylandHave you ever stood in a gallery staring at an amazing piece of art, all the while wondering where the artist’s brain was? What was the thought process behind that bold stroke of crimson that feathers into a wisp of grey so soft it breaks your heart? I get that way about a poached egg.

Okay, so maybe there was a dash of hyperbole in the whole egg thing there. Truth be told though, I often wonder what inspires an amazing dish. What was it that compelled that first cook to wrap a jewel of honeydew in a salty ribbon of prosciutto? Brilliance often defies logic, but boy can it taste good.

Behind the brick facade of a historical storefront in the charming market place of downtown Annapolis, Maryland brilliance is in the baking, on the flat-top and in the fryer. Here Foodie Nirvana can be found on a brioche bun, slathered in garlic aoili, and topped with a poached egg.

After an afternoon of blissful indulgence in the form of crispy pork belly and fried green tomatoes, chicken fried to perfection then seated upon a pedestal of golden waffles and enrobed in velvety gravy that would earn my own granny a smack in the mouth, I had to know more about the artist (chef) behind this study in indulgence.

Iron Rooster Annapolis Elevating Comfort FoodKyle Algaze, is the genius behind Iron Rooster. The former General Manager of The Breakfast Shoppe, where he won many awards in the area including “best breakfast in the state of Maryland” as voted by Rachael Ray Magazine – Kyle balances life as the father of two with running a restaurant that elevates comfort food to an art form.

Kyle took a quick break from the handmade pop-tarts (no concrete masquerading as frosting here) to dish with me.

What is Scrapple anyway?! (Wait, do we want to know?)

Some things are better left unsaid, but we serve it crispy and let the guest do the rest. It is a VERY popular menu item. We call it Pennsylvania Caviar.

Note to self: Don’t ask for caviar in Philly.

How do you top your waffles?

With fried chicken and black pepper gravy, of course (Chicken and Waffles).

Cheeky Monkey, he knows I meant… how do you “out do” those pillows of perfection.

What food do you refuse to eat?

Ketchup….I don’t like to even touch it. Ironically, my son puts ketchup on everything…literally everything.

Your favorite cookbook, is?

Heritage by Sean Brock (Husk Restaurant in Charleston). It’s low country comfort food, and very thought provoking.

I failed to mention that I’m a cookbook hoarder and he’s just become an enabler with this one.

Best cocktail you’ve ever had? Go!

Angels & Demons at Level in Annapolis: (Herradura Silver tequila, St. Germain, micro cilantro, habanero pepper, lime, agave). The name says it all.

Iron Rooster Resturant Annapolis Maryland Ephemera

There are great vintage “family” photos on the wall in the women’s restroom, people you know?

No, we do not know any of the women pictured in the restrooms (the men’s room has pictures as well). But the building is haunted (it was built in 1906)…so you never know if they come out at night.

Thanks Kyle… now back in the kitchen!

Here is my take. Is it worth it to make a trek into Annapolis if you live in DC? Yes. Does traffic and parking in the area suck? Also, yes. If you’re visiting Annapolis from out of town should you go anywhere else for brunch? NO!

You’ll find Iron Rooster at, 12 Market Space, Annapolis, Maryland. The price-point runs from about $9-$15. They have an amazing mixology menu as well as great options for kids – I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. I like a cocktail with my PBJ. Wait, that may not have been my point.

Though the place is often busy, it never seems cramped and the staff is always welcoming. I suggest making a reservation though. See if you can get seated upstairs, the view is almost as incredible as the Red Velvet Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. 



Essential Oil Sage Tea for a Sore Throat

Sage and Citrus Essential Oils Tea For Sore Throats

I’ve come to the conclusion that I live in a 2,800 square foot petri dish. Oh, it’s not so bad in the summer or even in spring, but come winter germs swarm the place like biblical plague. At some point sucking on zinc lozenges, rubbing oneself with camphor goop, and crossing of fingers starts to lose it’s effectiveness. So, now what?

Thanks to my pal Barb – brilliant blogger, awesome travel companion, and a ringer for any scavenger hunt- I’ve started to explore the world of essential oils.   Oh, what a world!

There are people out there who freely espouse their views on the ability of essential oils to treat everything from a bug bite to a mangy cat. (cue: put Windex on it) I pretty much just thought of them as a great way to make it smell like I’d just cleaned house. A diffuser being a nice edition to that homey feel of home. Turns out, I was wrong. 

Yep, I just publicly admitted to being incorrect. Take a screen shot NOW!

Somewhere in all of this my Italian mother-in-law gets some credit as well. She’s always “prescribing” one herb or another. Ah, but she never figured out sage could help with a sore throat. One point for me!

Putting on my Professor Sprout hat here for a little lesson in herbology. Sage or (Salvia officinalis) has antibacterial qualities. For centuries it’s been used as both an astringent, and anti-inflammatory. When you’ve got a sore throat you’re likely dealing with inflammation, maybe even a bit of bacteria. Salvia officinalis to the rescue with an herbaceous, fragrant, easy to make tea! 

Sage & Citrus Essential Oil Tea (For Sore Throats)
Serves 1
Essentials Oils make this DIY tea a perfect salve for a sore throat.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
  1. Sage - 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped. 1 teaspoon dry
  2. Citrus Essential Oil - 2-3 drops
  3. Honey 1 teaspoon
  4. Water
  1. Bring water to a boil. Steep sage in water for 2-3 minutes. Add honey and oil(s). To keep the full, healthful effects of the oils, you don't want to over-heat it.
  1. Honey is essential as it helps coat the throat. If you can't have honey, replace it with agava nectar. You may also add 1 to 2 drops of sage oil if so desired for a stronger tea. Don't want to drink the tea? Allow it to cool and use as a gargle.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Note: Most natralpaths and traditional doctors warn that sage tea should not be used by expectant mothers or those breastfeeding.

I have four kids and an opinion.