Holidays abroad with children – legal guidelines for separated parents29/06/2022
Now that the majority, if not all, restrictions have been lifted to many destinations abroad, international travel is once again on the minds of families.
However, many separated parents do not realise that they may need to obtain consent from the other parent before travelling.
To ensure a holiday proceeds smoothly and with no last minute hiccups, it is important that parents understand where they stand legally.
Understanding the legal position
If a parent has a Child Arrangements Order to say that their child(ren) live with them, then they are permitted to take the children out of the jurisdiction (outside of England and Wales) for up to 28 days at a time.
They should however ensure that any planned holidays do not put them in breach of any other provisions in such an Order (such as making the children available to spend time with the other parent).
Where there is no Court Order, the consent of every person with parental responsibility is required to remove the child(ren) from the jurisdiction even if only for a short holiday (to include to Scotland or Northern Ireland).
It is also worth nothing that a child’s mother always has parental responsibility for the child(ren) from birth.
A child’s father may have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate, were married to the child’s mother, have a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother or a Court Order.
A step parent or Guardian may also acquire parental responsibility if there is a parental responsibility agreement in place or a Court Order.
A parent who removes a child from the UK without such consent is effectively abducting that child, even if that child would usually live with them the majority of the same time.
It perhaps goes without saying that child abduction is a criminal offence with potentially serious consequences.
Once a parent has identified that consent is required, it is important to communicate with the other parent early; ideally before the holiday is booked to avoid any disappointment or financial loss if the consent cannot be obtained in time.
Parents should share full details of the proposed holiday as soon as available to include dates, travel arrangements, accommodation details, information about anyone else travelling with them and provide an emergency contact number.
It is advisable to obtain the consent in writing so that this can be produced at the airport to satisfy officials that all is in order should any questions arise.
The consent letter should include details of the holiday and the other parents/guardian’s contact details as well as their signature.
It is often helpful for parents or guardians to carry evidence of their relationship to the child such as their birth certificate and, if their surname is different to the child(ren)’s and has changed since their birth, proof of the name change – whether that is in the form of a marriage certificate, decree absolute or change of name deed.
If child(ren) are going on holiday outside of England and Wales with other family members, such as grandparents or friend’s parents, it is important to still provide a letter of consent signed by all holding parental responsibility for the child.
Parents should also check whether a holiday destination has any specific additional rules or requirements which visitors may be required to adhere to.
What can I do if consent is refused?
If consent is refused, a parent can ask the court for permission to remove the child(ren) temporarily from the jurisdiction for the purpose of the holiday and the Court will consider what is in the child’s best interests.
In the majority of cases the courts usually conclude a holiday will be a positive experience for the child(ren) and grant permission.
However, it is likely permission for a holiday during school term time or to a country that the foreign office advises against travelling to would be refused.
The Court would also look at the existing relationship with the child(ren).
If the child(ren) live with the parent proposing the holiday then they will most likely happily spend two weeks away with them abroad.
However, if the child(ren) have spent no more than one night with the parent in recent times, for example, then a two week holiday away from the other parent may not been deemed in their best interest immediately.
If you are planning an international holiday with children and want to discuss your situation in more detail, contact Emily Cannell, Partner and Head of Family at Mincoffs Solicitors, at email@example.com.