Travelling Abroad In the Holiday Season

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The holiday season can be a difficult time for separated parents. Holiday plans as a family are now unlikely.  One concern in relation to separate holidays may be that a former partner will leave the country with the children and not return. This is a more common worry in our globalised world where families have connections to foreign countries. When a relationship breaks down, this may tip the balance for one parent to wish to spend more time abroad, or indeed move out of the UK.   If  that parent wishes to take the children, they must consider, amongst other factors, the impact on the child’s other family relationships. If one parent were to move a child to another country, that child may no longer be able to see the other parent, or extended family members.

What is the law on separated parents taking children abroad?

It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the United Kingdom without consent from every person with ‘parental responsibility’ for that child. Exceptions apply where the court has given permission or there is a child arrangements order from the court stating that the child lives with that person and the trip is for less than one month.

I want to take my child abroad for a holiday – what should I do?

If you do not have a child arrangements order stating that the children live with you, the first step should be to obtain the consent of anyone with ‘parental responsibility’ for the child. Anyone with parental responsibility does not just mean anyone who is a parent, it has a specific legal meaning. A child’s parents will generally have parental responsibility for a child, however, other people such as step-parents can  also apply for parental responsibility.   In certain circumstances some parents may not have parental responsibility, for example a father who was not married to the mother when the child was born or named on a child’s birth certificate. If you are unsure, speak to a specialist lawyer to check that you have the consent from the right people.

Even if you have a child arrangements order stating that the children live with you, it is a good idea to discuss your plans with your ex-partner as your trip may disrupt any time that parent routinely spends with the children.  It is always best to try to agree matters with your ex-partner if possible. If you do not have a live with order or you plan to be away for over a month it would be good to involve the other parent at the planning stage rather than once the trip has been booked.

You should consider whether you can give reassurances by way of providing details of where you are going and proof of return tickets.  It may assist to initially agree a shorter trip with a view to building up to longer holidays. A specialist solicitor can help by advising you and, if required, by writing to your ex-partner on your behalf. If absolutely necessary and, if you believe that your ex-partner is being unreasonable in not agreeing to your holiday,  an application may need to be made to court. The court will then decide whether it is in the child’s best interests for permission to be given for the applicant parent to take the children on the proposed holiday. Each case is decided individually and it should be noted that the Court will need to consider each application very carefully.  There is a chance that permission may not be granted where there are allegations that the parent or destination are unsafe, or where contact between the children and the parent needs to build up more slowly for another reason.

I want to take my child abroad or move within the UK for a longer period of time – what should I do?

If you want to take the children abroad for a longer period, intend to move them abroad or even move to a different area in the UK even if the children currently live with you, you will need to provide a thorough plan as to how the child’s needs will be met if the move takes place and seek the permission of the other parent/parties with Parental Responsibility. The plan should include details of how the children will be educated, where they will live, their proposed lifestyle and support network and how they will retain meaningful relationships with family members in the UK.  As much information as possible should be shared to try to reassure your ex-partner.  If agreement cannot be reached, an application will need to be made to the Court before any proposed move can take place.  The Court will need to consider all the circumstances of the proposed move and the child’s welfare will be of paramount concern. A specialist solicitor can help you provide the necessary information for a proposed move and make application to the Court if necessary.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Kerrie Hall , Senior Solicitor specialising in Family Law.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.