As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, many parents will be dreaming of getting away and planning when and where to take their children. However, at the moment advice around travel is still uncertain and parents won’t necessarily agree on whether it’s safe to go abroad and how to deal with the quarantine issues. Even when travel restrictions are lifted taking children abroad will still be a complex issue and one that requires careful consideration if you are separated from your child’s other parent.
The most important question to ask before making that booking should be “do you need permission from your ex-partner to take your child on holiday?” The answer to the question is almost always a firm yes but there are some situations in which you may not require consent: –
- Consent to travel is required from anyone who shares parental responsibility for a child. Therefore, if only one parent has parental responsibility that parent can travel abroad with the child without permission from the other parent.
A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility for a child she has given birth to. A child’s father or civil partner will also automatically acquire parental responsibility for a child, if they are married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother at the time the child is born. Since December 2003, if the child’s father is named on the child’s birth certificate, he automatically shares parental responsibility with the child’s mother, regardless of whether the parents are married or not.
Parental responsibility can be acquired by stepparents if the child’s birth parents both agree. Similarly, other adults may also acquire parental responsibility by way of Court Order.
It is important to consider whether there is any other person who shares parental responsibility with you for your child before you take your child abroad. Where more than one person has parental responsibility for a child you will require their written consent to take your child abroad. If you travel without their consent, you may be committing a criminal offence.
- The other exception is if you have been to Court previously and the Court has made a Child Arrangements Order which provides for the child to live with you.
The Family Court continues to deal with disputes between parents about where their child should live and what time they should spend with their other parent. At the conclusion of these proceedings the Court may make a Child Arrangements Order to regulate these arrangements. If this Order includes provision for a child to live with one parent (or other family member) then that parent is able to take their child abroad for up to 28 days without the permission of the other parent or the Court. If the order only deals with the arrangements for the child to spend time with the other parent (previously called “contact”) and does not specifically confirm who the child should live with (previously called “residence”) then permission would still be required.
If you do not have a Child Arrangements Order which provides for your child to live with you, and you share parental responsibility for your child with someone else, you will require permission from that person to travel abroad with your child. “Consent” ought to be provided in writing and should include the other parent’s contact details including, address and a contact telephone number. It is also worth checking with your travel agent whether there are any requirements which are specific to the country you intend to travel to, which might include travelling with the child’s birth certificate.
If your ex-partner is unwilling to provide consent to you taking your child abroad, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Whilst there are a number of options available to try to secure the consent of your ex-partner ultimately you will require a Court Order if they remain unwilling to agree. If there remains a dispute then it is possible to make an application to Court for a Specific Issue Order, which will allow the Court to make a decision as to whether or not you can travel abroad with your child. A copy of the Order will need to be taken with you on your trip.
A court application is not a speedy process, and it cannot be expedited for the sake of an impending holiday. Therefore, it is important that you try to seek consent before you book your holiday. If the consent is withdrawn later down the line, closer to your holiday, you should seek urgent legal advice to avoid finding yourself in a situation where you are not able to go on holiday as you do not have the required permission, either from the other parent or the Court.
Emotions often run high after a separation and the thought of a child travelling abroad without one parent can be a real concern. However, there are practical steps which may assist:
- Discuss plans for an overseas holiday as soon as possible, ideally before the holiday is booked.
- Agree to share holiday details such as flight information, any itinerary, and the name, phone number and address of the accommodation.
- Provide details of anyone else who will be joining the child on holiday.
- Make sure everyone has contact details for the child’s doctor.
- Provide details of your child’s medical insurance cover.
- Agree in advance the practical arrangements for the delivery of the child’s passport.
- Make sure there are arrangements agreed, before the trip, for your child to be able to maintain contact with their other parent whilst on the trip. Also consider whether it is appropriate to allow some additional contact before or after the holiday if there will be an interruption in the usual contact arrangements.
Regardless of the legal requirements it is usually better to try to discuss holiday arrangements without relying on the Court to make a decision. The earlier you begin to communicate about a proposed holiday the more options for resolution there are available to you.
At KBL Solicitors LLP our family law team have many years’ experience and advise in relation to all matters arising from relationship breakdown for married and unmarried couples. Our specialist solicitors are well equipped to deal with complex financial issues, including resolving finances post-separation and Children Act cases.
If you have any questions or would like to arrange an initial consultation please contact our family team on Bolton 01204 527777 or Blackburn 01254 268790.