Things to consider when taking your children abroad
With the Easter holidays approaching, you may be thinking about taking your children on holiday over the break. While planning a family holiday can be challenging at the best of times, after a divorce or separation it can become even more complicated.
Do you need the other parent’s permission?
We assume that both parents have parental responsibility for the child, with a mother having parental responsibility automatically. A father normally has parental responsibility if he is named on the birth certificate, or if he was married to the mother when the child was born.
Where both parents have parental responsibility and there are no court orders in relation to the children, neither parent can take the child on holiday abroad without the other parent’s written consent. ‘Abroad’ means anywhere outside of England and Wales, if that is where the child lives.
Where the court has previously been involved, the other parent’s consent may not be required if:
- you have a court order stating that your child lives with you. In this case, you can take your child abroad for less than one month without the other parent’s consent; and
- you have a court order stating that you may take your child on holiday abroad.
Even where you are not legally required to have the other parent’s permission, it can be helpful to inform them of your holiday plans. You may also want to schedule times for them to speak to your child while you are away. Doing so may reassure them and make it easier for them to accept your plans.
What if the other parent refuses permission?
A parent must have a good reason for refusing permission, such as concerns that your child will not be safe whilst on holiday or might be abducted (ie taken abroad and not returned). Hostility between parents is not a good enough reason to refuse permission.
If the other parent does not agree to your proposed holiday plans, your first step should be to ask why. You might be able to put their mind at ease by providing further information, such as flight details, the address where your child will be staying, and how they can contact you and your child in case of an emergency.
If discussions about the holiday reach a deadlock, consider attending mediation or applying to court. The court can make an order allowing you to take your child on holiday even though the other parent does not agree. The court will only make this order if it is in your child’s best interests.
It can take some time for a court to consider your application for an order, so it is worth discussing your holiday with the other parent well in advance of your travel dates.
What paperwork do you need to take with you on holiday?
You should either take a copy of the court order giving you permission to take your child abroad or, if no court order has been made, a letter signed by the other parent confirming that they agree to you taking your child abroad and including their contact details.
It may also be helpful to take your child’s birth certificate, to prove that you are their parent. If your surnames are different, you should also consider taking your marriage or divorce certificate.
Your destination country may have additional paperwork requirements. You should always contact their embassy in advance to check this.
If you would like further advice about taking your children on holiday, please contact a member of our family and matrimonial team who can advise on your options and the best course of action in your specific circumstances.