Separated Parents: Taking a Child on Holiday / Abroad

Separated Parents: Taking a Child on Holiday / Abroad
Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash
Emma Alfieri
Emma Alfieri
Legal Director
Greene & Greene Solicitors

With lighter evenings and (slightly) warmer weather, Spring is that time of year when parents realise the school summer holidays are not too far off and are busy making family plans for the summer holidays.

We are often asked to advise separated parents about the rules on taking their child/children abroad and whether they require permission to do so.

The rules are clear.  A parent must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for a child before taking the child abroad.  If this is not possible, permission will have to be sought from the Court.

The only exception to this rule is where there is already a Court Order (Child Arrangements Order) in place.  In this case, if the Court Order states that the child will “live with” a nominated parent, that parent can take the child abroad for 28 days without getting permission from the non-resident parent.

The word ‘abroad’ relates to any country other than England and Wales, so permission must be sought to travel with a child to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Taking a child abroad without permission of the other person with Parental responsibility or without a court order is child abduction.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth.

A father usually has parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate.

Same-sex partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment, such as donor insemination or fertility treatment.

Why is it so important to get permission of the other parent?

At a UK or foreign border, an adult travelling with a child might be asked for evidence of permission to travel with the child.

A letter from the other person with parental responsibility for the child is usually enough to evidence the permission. The letter should include the other parent’s contact details and confirmation that they know about and agree to the trip.

It also may help at the border if the parent takes with them evidence of their relationship with the child, such as a birth or adoption certificate, or a divorce or marriage certificate, particularly if the adult’s  surname is different from the child’s.

Before travel it is advisable to check the entry requirements for the country to ensure all the required documentation in place.  Depending on the country there may also be differing age limits/rules for when a person is considered to be a child.

How do you get permission from a Court?

If permission cannot be obtained from the other person with parental responsibility to take the child abroad, the parent seeking to take the child abroad will need to apply to the Family Court for a Court Order.

If a parent is refusing to grant permission they will need to have a good reason as to why. The Court is more likely to grant permission if travel is to a safe country and the travel is going to benefit the child.

If a Court application is required it is important to allow plenty of time (ideally at least 3 months) so there is sufficient time for the Court to deal with the issue.

This article is only intended to be a summary and not specific legal advice.

Read more articles by Emma Alfieri.

About Emma Alfieri

Emma Alfieri is a Legal Director at Suffolk firm Greene & Greene Solicitors.

Emma advises on all aspects of family law, including divorce and associated financial matters, disputes between cohabitants and child related disputes.

A member of Resolution, Emma is committed to resolving disputes as positively and agreeably as possible whilst also being motivated to obtain the best possible outcome for her clients.

Since 2012 Emma has been consistently recommended by the Legal 500 on an annual basis and in the most recent 2024 edition Emma is ranked as a “rising star”.

As an advocate of fault free divorce, Emma lobbied at Parliament with other members of Resolution in 2016 to bring about the recent changes to divorce law.

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