Taking Your Child On Holiday: The Law


With the school summer holidays now in full swing many parents will have been thinking about taking their children abroad and for many separated couples this can be the cause of conflict and disagreement.

Parents Dispute

So if you wish to take your child outside of England and Wales this holiday period what exactly is the position?

The Law

The position differs depending on each parent’s legal status and who has parental responsibility for the child:
  • Where only one person has parental responsibility and there are no court orders in place then that person can take the child on holiday without seeking the consent of anybody else.
  • Where more than one person has parental responsibility then the consent of every person with parental responsibility must be obtained in advance.
  • If there is a residence order in place then the resident parent can take the child out of the country for up to 28 days without needing the consent of any other person, irrespective of whether or not they have parental responsibility.

Definition of Parental Responsibility

The mother of a child automatically has parental responsibility for, as does a father who has married to the child’s mother either before or after the child’s birth.

From 1st December 2003 a father named on a child’s birth certificate on, or after, this date also has parental responsibility.

In all other circumstances parental responsibility must be obtained either through entering into a parental responsibility agreement or obtaining a parental responsibility order through the court.

Gaining Consent

If it is not possible to obtain the consent of other people with parental responsibility then you can apply to the court for a court order. In considering making any order the court must have regard to the welfare checklist in determining whether matters are in the child’s best interests. In these circumstances you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible so that any orders can be obtained well in advance of the proposed holiday.

You can make an application to the court for a specific issue order, which ultimately means that the court can give you permission to take the child abroad. To have the best chances of success your application should contain details of the location of the holiday, flight details, dates of the proposed trip and the reasons for the holidays.

If you do not agree to a holiday abroad you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order. If you are successful in obtaining this order and it is last minute it can be served on the police and port authorities to prevent the removal of the child from the country if necessary.

Practical Points

It is always best if court proceedings can be avoided where possible and so you should try to come to an agreement between you. In order to obtain this consent you should consider the following practical points to put the other parent at ease.
  1. Providing contact details whilst abroad. It is always advisable to provide flight details, hotel information and a contact number in case of emergency whilst you are away.
  2. Make provision for missed contact periods. Should the holiday mean the other parent will miss out on time with the child it is worth putting forward alternative proposals for extra contact before or after the holiday to make up for this.
  3. Passports. Make sure that the child has an up-to-date passport and that arrangements are made for you to obtain the passport before the holiday to avoid any last minute glitches.

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