Summer holidays: A guide for separated parents

Summer is a popular time of year to take a foreign holiday. However, for separated parents wanting to travel abroad with their children, there is more to think about than just which flight to book and what to pack, so it is very important that you start making plans early.

Where there is a court order

If a parent has a Child Arrangements Order that provides for their children to live with them, they can take their child/children out of England (or Wales if that is where they live) for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent unless there is a Prohibited Steps Order or Specific Issue Order requiring them not to do so.

Where there is no court order

If there is no Child Arrangements Order, then the consent of every person with parental responsibly (usually both parents but see below) will be needed before you can travel abroad with your child/children.

Parental Responsibility

A mother always has parental responsibility and a father or second parent has it if they are:

  1. Named on the birth certificate;
  2. Are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth; or
  3. They have a parental responsibility agreement or order.

How to obtain consent for a holiday abroad

It is always advisable to discuss and agree your holiday arrangements with the other parent before booking anything. You should provide details such as destination, travel dates, flight numbers, and accommodation. Whilst verbal consent is all that is required, it is preferable to obtain something in writing, either by letter, email, or text.

Once consent is obtained and the holiday is booked, make sure you provide the other parent with details.

You should also make sure you are holding all the passports and that they are in date.

When you travel, it may be beneficial to take a copy of your child/children’s birth certificate/s with you to evidence your relationship to the child if challenged.

What to do if consent is refused 

If you have sought permission to travel, but permission has been unreasonably refused, you can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order giving you permission to travel.  Such applications are rarely refused given that a holiday is usually going to be considered to be in the best interests of a child/children.

However, permission may not be granted if you usually do not spend consecutive days/nights with your child/children or if your child has stated a genuine reason not to want to go. Permission is also unlikely to be granted if the Foreign Office does not advise travel to a particular destination or if there is a genuine risk of abduction.

An application to the court is likely to take at least 4 months to determine, so it is important to plan ahead.

How we can help

At Herrington Carmichael we are experienced in dealing with all aspects of family breakdown, including arrangements for children and the need to seek consent or permission from the court to remove a child from the jurisdiction temporarily, or permanently. If you think you may require legal assistance, contact us and a member of our family team can advise you in more detail on your options and help you to try and agree the best course of action for you and your child/children.

Sarah Speed
Partner, Head of Family
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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