Taking a Child Abroad and Separated Parents

Taking a Child Abroad and Separated Parents

With the school holidays fast approaching, you may soon be planning to take your child abroad on holiday, therefore, if you are separated from the other parent, there are important factors to take into consideration before you travel, says Amanda Adamson, Head of Family Department.

Amanda often comes across situations when separated parents have not been consulted about a proposed holiday abroad or the arrangements cannot be agreed for numerous reasons.  Understandably, in situations where arrangements are either not agreed or communicated properly between parents, this can cause unnecessary upset or could end up in court.  So following are some commonly asked questions that Amanda has answered for you.

Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

Your legal position will depend upon whether or not you have parental responsibility or a court order giving you permission to take your child abroad on holiday.

Where both separated parents have parental responsibility, the consent from the other parent or anyone else with parental responsibility is required, failing which you must obtain a court order granting you permission.  If you fail to abide by the law, you could be committing a criminal offence.

If there is a Child Arrangement’s Order specifying that a child should live with one parent (previously known as a residence order), then the parent whose favour the order has been made may take the child abroad for a maximum of 28 days without the other parent’s permission.

Who has parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility means ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.  Therefore, if you have parental responsibility, you have the right to be consulted in key decisions about a child’s upbringing such as medical treatment, education and holidays abroad.

The child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility from birth.  The father will also have parental responsibility if one of the following apply:

  • If the father was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth;
  • If the father marries the mother after the child’s birth;
  • If the parents are not married but the father’s name is registered on the child’s birth certificate (from 1st December 2003);
  • If the parents are not married but enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement;
  • An application to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order;
  • If there is a Child Arrangement Order specifying that a child should live with the father;
  • Adopting a child.

Same-sex partners will both have parental responsibility if they were both civil partners at the time of the donor insemination or fertility treatment.  If they are not civil partners, then the 2nd parent can obtain parental responsibility by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement or applying to the Court.  N.B. The law regarding parental responsibility for same sex couples can be complex and it is not possible to cover every scenario in this article.

There is no legal requirement to obtain the consent of a parent without parental responsibility however, it is courteous and good practice to inform the other parent about the holiday and to provide details to avoid any possible conflicts.

What happens if the former spouse or partner refuses to give consent or needs to prevent the other parent from taking a child abroad?

If one parent refuses to give permission to take a child abroad, the parent wanting to take the child abroad must apply to the court for a specific issue order.  The decision will then be down to a court to decide whether the holiday is in the best interest of the child.  If a parent has concerns about a former spouse or partner taking a child abroad, e.g., perhaps no information has been provided or they are concerned there is a risk of child abduction, they should immediately apply to the court for a prohibited steps order to prevent the child being taken abroad.

Here are some useful guidelines on what to provide to the other parent:-

It is important that you provide as much information to the other parent as far in advance as you can so as to prevent last minute disagreements or potential court proceedings.

  • Proposed dates of your holiday and the Country you want you are planning to take your child;
  • Flight times (outbound and inbound);
  • The address of the accommodation you propose to stay at;
  • Emergency contact numbers whilst you are away;
  • Make sure you know of any changes to your child’s medical condition in case you need to take medicine abroad or if you require any vaccinations before you travel;
  • If you are proposing to travel during term time, make sure you have the permission of the Head Teacher or you could be fined;

The form of consent to take with you and other documents if you have a different surname.

Whilst written consent is not strictly required, it is always advisable to provide consent in the form of a letter or email from everyone with parental responsibility.  It is also important to check the specific requirements of the country you are travelling to as each Country has its own requirements for children travelling without their parent(s), a full list can be found on the Home Office website www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.  The Home Office website also provides a useful template letter of consent which can be verified by a Solicitor or Commissioner for Oaths.

If you have a different surname to the child, (perhaps due to changing your name after a divorce) or if a grandparent or other family member is taking the child on holiday, it is also important to take other evidence with you such as a copy of the birth/adoption certificate showing your relationship with the child; divorce or marriage certificate; and the written consent from all parties with parental responsibility.  Without this evidence, a child maybe refused boarding.  If you had to apply to the court to obtain permission to take your child on holiday, you will need to take the child arrangement order as evidence.

Is the same required for holidays in England and Wales?

No, the same situation does not apply for holidays in England and Wales, permission from the other parent with parental responsibility is not required, providing the holiday falls within any contact arrangement.  If the holiday requires a change to any contact arrangements, it is important that parents agree to the change.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.  We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

If you would like to discuss your matter, please contact Amanda Adamson by telephone on 01489 885788 or by email aadamson@jaspervincent.com