4 Things You Should Know Before Taking Your Child On Holiday

Cara Nuttall
Cara Nuttall
Partner and Family Law Solicitor

As the school holidays quickly approach and travel corridors open, many parents are planning a long-awaited getaway with their children. For some this will be a break in the sun, for others it will be a long-overdue opportunity to see friends and family who live abroad.

For separated parents, it is always important to understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to consent to travel. Here’s some things you should know before taking your children abroad:

1. It’s a myth that you can’t abduct your own children

Some people wrongly believe that if you’re a child’s parent, you cannot ‘abduct’ them in law, and you have the right to go abroad with them whenever you want. This is not the case.

In England and Wales, whether you need the consent of the other parent (or other family members) will depend on:

      • Who has parental responsibility for your child or children
      • Whether there are any Court Orders in place either granting permission or prohibiting travel

If two people or more share parental responsibility and there are no Court Orders in place, you’ll need the consent of the other parent before travelling abroad, even if it’s only for a holiday.

If you go without consent, you could be committing child abduction, which can have both criminal law and civil law consequences. If your child’s other parent is refusing consent for a holiday you want to take with your children, you can make an application to the Court to be given permission.

If you are unsure whether you have permission to travel or not, or need permission, it is always important to check. A Family Law Solicitor will be able to explain where you stand, and what to do if you need to get permission you don’t have.

2. Make sure you have all the right paperwork

As a separated parent it’s always important to make sure you have paperwork with you to show you are entitled to travel with the children, just in case.

Sometimes it is a good idea to have copies of their birth certificates, especially if you have a different surname, as well as a copy of any Court Orders that are in place. Written confirmation from the other parent is always a good idea too, if you can get it.

You should also know that some destination countries insist on the completion of specific, formal forms, or signed and witnessed written permission. So you should always check to make sure you have what you need to enjoy your holiday without unexpected drama.

3. You should share contact details

There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, the Court will expect separated parents to share information about where they will be taking the children and the specific arrangements for travel. This will usually include an address and emergency contact details.

4. What to do if you decide you want to stay

It is not unusual for people to return ‘home’ to visit friends and family and decide they want to move their to live.

Sometimes, it can be tempting just to stay, and try to agree the move from there. But in many cases, staying abroad longer than was agreed will be classed as child abduction, even if you had permission to go on the original, shorter trip.

If your plans change and you decide to stay longer than you originally intended to, it is important to get the other parent’s consent and get legal advice so you know where you stand.

Your child’s other parent could urgently issue special Court proceedings to secure a child’s return home if they are not returned on an agreed date. They can be stressful and costly, and it can also be a criminal matter, in some circumstances, so it is always important to avoid these complications.

A good Children Law Solicitor can explain where you stand, and what you need to do to get permission to stay, or relocate permanently if the other parent does not agree.

For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors

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