Can I Stop my ex Taking my Child on Holiday?

Posted on: 8 mins read
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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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When it comes to co-parenting after a separation or divorce, one of the most common concerns for parents is the issue of taking children on holiday. As a responsible parent, you want to ensure your child's well-being and safety, and this may lead to questions about whether you can stop your ex from taking your child on holiday. If your ex has told you that they wish to take your child on holiday, but you aren’t entirely comfortable, here’s everything you need to know about your rights.

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So, can you stop your ex from taking your child on holiday?

The short answer to the question is yes; parental responsibility plays an important role. If you are the child’s mother, then you are automatically given parental responsibility.

If you are the child’s father, then you are given parental responsibility if you are married to the child’s mother when he/she is born or if you’re named as father on the birth certificate.

If one person with parental responsibility says no, then legally, the child cannot be taken anywhere. If they are taken somewhere without consent, then this can be classed as child abduction, so it is important that communication is clear.

In the UK, the law and regulations around child custody, travel, and parental rights are complex, and it’s important to have a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities. This blog will explore the legal aspects of preventing your ex from taking your child on holiday, the circumstances in which it may be possible, and the best practices to ensure your child’s interests are protected.


What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is given to the adult who is responsible for providing care and support to a child. It is commonly given to the birth mother and father of a child. There are also other ways to get parental responsibility, such as receiving a court order, or if you adopt a child.


The Legal Framework Surrounding Children and Parents

Before delving into the specific situations where you might be able to stop your ex from taking your child on holiday, it’s essential to understand the legal framework that governs these matters in the UK.

Child Arrangement Orders: In the UK, child custody and visitation arrangements are typically defined in Child Arrangement Orders. These orders specify who the child will live with and the arrangements for spending time with both parents. The court will usually decide on these arrangements based on the child’s best interests.

Parental Responsibility: Both parents usually have parental responsibility for their child. This means they have the right to make decisions about their child’s upbringing, including issues related to education, healthcare, and travel. Parental responsibility can be held by one or both parents. If a mother chooses not to include the biological father on the birth certificate, the father won’t automatically have any legal rights regarding their child. To establish these rights, the father must either apply for parental responsibility or seek a re-registration of the birth.

Consent: When it comes to taking a child on holiday, the general principle is that both parents with parental responsibility should consent to the trip. If both parents agree, the holiday can proceed without legal obstacles.


What options does my ex have?

If there is a court order in place which shows that your child is living with your former partner, then they do not need your permission for them to go abroad (up to 28 days). This is known as a child arrangements order.

If there is no court order in place, and even if you have parental responsibility, then your ex needs clear, written permission from you. If you decide that it is best that your child does not go on holiday, then your former partner is entitled to go to Court for permission. If they succeed, then they will be able to take your child away, even though you have already said no. But, if the court rejects the application, then this means that your ex is still unable to take your child on holiday.

Before it gets to that point, pause, and consider the following:

Think why your answer might be no

To avoid any issues or arguments, you should think about the reasons you do not want your child to holiday with your former partner. Your reasoning should be important to you, and it also needs to be in the best interest of your child. Here are some common concerns:

  • the holiday location is considered unsafe.
  • you are concerned with the distance or length of the holiday.
  • your child has a medical condition.
  • the holiday is during a time which doesn’t suit you or your schedule.

These concerns are fair, but also can be worked around. If your concerns have more to do with you, or how you feel about the situation, what could be done to make you feel more comfortable? It is important that everyone involved has a say in what they want to happen. So that you can voice your fears, you must be able to discuss things with the child's other parent.

Talk things through

Put your child’s needs before your own and talk through what is bothering you the most. If you don’t reach an agreement, or you don’t change your mind about your decision, at least you’ve invited a reasonable discussion, but it is important to remember that they could still take your child abroad if they get permission from a court. Also be prepared for what effect your response could have; your child could become upset with you for stopping them from having a holiday, or it could cause (more) problems between you and your former partner.

Now, let's explore situations where you might be able to stop your ex from taking your child on holiday:

Let's talk about when you might be able to stop your ex from taking your child on a trip:

Worries about Safety: If you're genuinely concerned that your child might not be safe during the planned trip, like if the place they're going or where they'll stay seems risky, or you doubt the other parent's ability to take care of them, you can take legal steps to stop the trip.

No Agreement from the Other Parent: If your ex is planning a trip without getting your okay, and this goes against what's in your Child Arrangement Order, you might have the right to legally stop the holiday.

Emergency: If you think your child is in immediate danger during the planned trip, get in touch with the authorities right away and consider getting legal help to stop the trip.

Taking the Child Without Permission: If your ex tries to take your child on a trip without telling you, act quickly to protect your child's interests. The court may see this as not following the rules.

Passport or Visa Issues: Sometimes, one parent might control the child's passport, or permission might be needed for a visa. If you're worried about where they're going or what the other parent is planning, you can legally prevent these processes.


Balancing the Child's Best Interests

It's important to note that the court's primary concern in any child-related matter is the best interests of the child. This applies to decisions about holidays as well. When seeking to prevent your ex from taking your child on holiday, you will need to demonstrate to the court that your concerns are rooted in what is best for the child's physical and emotional well-being.

If you genuinely believe that a proposed holiday poses a risk to your child's safety or well-being, you should:

Seek Mediation: Before taking legal action, consider mediation. It can provide a platform for both parents to discuss their concerns and reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Legal Advice: Consult with a family law solicitor who can provide guidance on your specific situation and the legal options available to you.

Gather Evidence: If you decide to take the matter to court, you will need to provide evidence supporting your concerns. This may include documentation, witness statements, or expert opinions.

Consider Alternatives: Be open to exploring alternative solutions that allow your child to enjoy time with both parents while addressing your concerns. Such as inviting the offended party along with you, or to go on holiday somewhere closer to home.

Court Application: If all else fails, you can make an application to the court to stop the holiday. The court will consider the evidence and decide based on the child's best interests.


Preventing Unauthorised Removal

One of the most challenging situations parents faces is when the other parent attempts to take the child on holiday without consent or in violation of the court-ordered arrangements. In such cases, immediate action is necessary to prevent unauthorised removal.

Contact the Authorities: If you believe your child is at risk or is being taken without consent, contact the relevant authorities, such as the police or border control agencies.

Legal Action: Seek legal advice and make an emergency application to the court to prevent the child from being removed. The court can issue orders that prevent the child's removal or require their return.

Consent Orders: To avoid such situations in the future, you can seek a Consent Order from the court that specifies travel arrangements, including holidays. This can provide clarity and legal enforcement of the terms.


Get in Touch

Consider the most favourable resolution for both your well-being and the best interests of your child. If you find it challenging to arrive at a decision or have concerns that your ex may obtain permission from the court, don't hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable Family Law solicitors for guidance and support.

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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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