As the October half-term approaches, many divorced or separated parents will be taking their children abroad on holiday. If you are thinking about a trip with your child where you will be taking them to another country, there are a few important points to consider before your trip:
Do you need the other parent’s permission?
If you wish to take your child abroad on holiday after you are divorced or separated, you must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for a child, which in most cases is the other parent. “Parental responsibility” (or “PR”) is a legal term that means that a parent with PR has legal rights and duties relating to their children’s upbringing, and this continues following a divorce or separation. When you raise this with the other parent, you should give full details of the trip (including travel dates, flight details and where you will be staying etc.) and ask them to confirm in writing that they consent to the holiday.
You can take your child abroad for a holiday for up to 28 days without getting permission from the other parent if there is an existing child arrangement order in place saying that the child lives with you unless the court order says otherwise. It is possible for both parents to have a “lives with” order, in which case both parents have this right. Even if you have a “lives with” order, you will still need to let the other parent know that you are planning to take the child abroad and to provide details of the holiday, as the other parent still has parental responsibility for the child.
What can you do if that other parent is unwilling to give permission?
If the other parent is unwilling to give permission for a child to travel abroad for a holiday with you, you will have to make an application to the court for a “Specific Issue Order” granting permission for you to take the child abroad for the holiday. The court will then consider both parent’s positions and decide whether or not it is in the child’s best interests to travel abroad on holiday. In most cases, the court is likely to consider that going on a holiday is in the best interests of the children, unless there are safeguarding issues or other concerns or risks that need to be considered.
Although it is possible to request an urgent hearing, due to present delays in the courts, it is likely to take several months before the matter will be fully resolved through the court process and a final decision made. It is therefore advisable to plan ahead as much as possible and to raise this with the other parent a few months before your planned holiday, so that you have time to resolve the matter before the holiday, especially if you think the other parent may object to the holiday.
You could also attend Mediation with the other parent to discuss the matter and to try to reach an agreement out of court, but if the matter is urgent or the other parent will not engage in Mediation, you may have no choice but to start court proceedings immediately. It is possible to start court proceedings so that a court timetable is put in place and continue discussions in Mediation whilst you are waiting for a court date, if this is appropriate in the circumstances.
What happens if you take a child abroad without the other parent’s consent or court order?
If you take a child out of the country without either the consent of the other parent or permission from the court, your actions could be considered as being child abduction. This is a serious offence, and if found guilty you could face criminal charges. The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which operates between more than 80 countries) defines what constitutes abduction and sets a default position that usually means the return of the children to the country where they previously lived. The situation can be far more complex if you take your child abroad to a non-Hague convention country.
In addition to any criminal sanctions, it is likely that you will face scrutiny in any future court proceedings relating to your child that may come about as a result of taking your child abroad without the right consents. Your actions are also likely to impact the way you co-parent with the other parent going forward, which may not be in your child’s best interest in the longer term.
What documentation should you take with you if travelling alone with your child?
If you are travelling abroad alone with your child, you should take a copy of any child arrangement order with you, either showing that you have a “lives with” order in place or permission from the court if you have applied for a Specific Issue Order in relation to the holiday.
If you do not have a court order in place because you and the other parent have been able to reach an agreement about the child’s living arrangements and your holiday, without the need for a court order, then you may need to have evidence of the other parent’s consent (for example in a signed letter confirming their consent to the holiday and details of the holiday). You may also want to take evidence of your relationship with the child, for example a birth or adoption certificate showing that you are a parent, especially if you have a different surname to your child. The border requirements vary from country to country, so you will need to make sure that you contact the embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to, to check whether there are any additional requirements well in advance of your planned holiday so that you can ensure that you have everything you need from the other parent before you go.
Talk to us
If the other parent is not prepared to give the necessary consents, you may need specialist legal advice from a family lawyer. Our highly experienced family law team would be happy to help.
We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.