Info & Advice

Can my ex take my child on holiday without my permission?

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It is common for separated parents to want to take their children on holiday. As to whether a parent can take their child overseas or on holiday within the UK without the other’s permission depends on the circumstances in question. In this article, we examine some common circumstances.

Parental Responsibility

When looking at whether your ex can take your child on holiday without your permission, the key factor is parental responsibility. All mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their child at birth. However, a father only acquires parental responsibility in the following situations:

  • He was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or at any time thereafter
  • His name is on the child’s birth certificate (if unmarried)
  • The court has made a parental responsibility order in the father’s favour
  • The father enters a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, and it has been registered at the Principal Registry.

If both parents have parental responsibility and there is no child arrangements order in place regarding where the child lives, both parents will need consent from the other to take the child out of the country.

Should the holiday take place in the UK during a period when the non-resident parent has contact with the child, permission will not be needed from the other. This is for two reasons, firstly, it is within the jurisdiction, and secondly, falls within agreed contact arrangements. However, if the proposed holiday is not within the agreed contact schedule, permission will be required for any changes. If your ex does not agree to the proposed change, or holiday, they can apply to the court for it to be dealt with as a Specific Issue.

Can a father take a child on holiday abroad?

Any location outside the UK is regarded as “abroad”. If the child’s mother consents to this taking place, and there is no other party holding parental responsibility, then, yes, they can. If there is a child arrangements order stating that the child is to live with the father, then no consent is required from the mother providing the holiday is no longer than 28 days duration.

If the child’s mother does not consent to the holiday, and there is no child arrangements order in place, the father will need to make an application to court for it to be dealt with as a Specific Issue. The court is likely to approve a holiday request if the time away is reasonable and within the 28 day allowable period. But it can become more complex if the area being travelled to is regarded as unsafe, the trip is proposed to last over 28 days, or there is a risk that the child may not be returned to the UK. It may also be an important consideration that the destination is part of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which is an essential safeguard to secure the return of a child.

What difference does a Child Arrangements Order make to taking a child abroad?

If a child arrangements order is in place and it sets out who and where the child will live, then that parent may take the child abroad for up to 28 days without having to obtain the other parent’s permission. The parent with day-to-day care should make sure the holiday does not breach the terms of any order regarding the child spending time with the non-resident parent.

What if there is a Special Guardianship Order in place?

If a special guardianship order is in force, a special guardian may remove a child from the UK for up to 3 months without the permission of any other person holding parental responsibility.

Can I prevent my ex from taking my child on holiday without my permission?

If you have concerns about the other parent taking your child on holiday abroad, you can make an application to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order. This will be determined as to whether the holiday is in the best interests of the child. However, if the other parent has a child arrangements order in place stating the child lives with them, as discussed above, the law allows them to take them out of the country for up to 28 days. In these circumstances, unless the child is in danger of abduction or there are other welfare issues, then the court is unlikely to intervene.

A Prohibited Steps application can be made at short notice. This may be necessary if the other parent is hell bent on taking the children abroad, no matter what you say. But going to court is both financially and emotionally expensive, and should be a last resort.

Does permission have to be in writing?

A letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child will usually be sufficient to demonstrate someone has permission to take them abroad. The letter should include the other parent’s contact details, travel dates and itinerary. It will also help if you have the following supporting documentation:

  • Evidence of the relationship between the individual and the child, e.g. a birth or adoption certificate, or court order
  • A divorce or marriage certificate showing surnames. However, if you were never married to the other parent, something that proves a link if the travelling parent’s name is different to that of the child.
  • A medical consent form enabling the travelling parent to consent to any medical treatment or decisions for the child should the need arise.

It may be sensible to consider signing the permission letter before a notary public (most solicitors provide this service) to reduce questions as to the authenticity of the document.

Who will need to see the permission letter?

It is probable that at some point in the journey; the parent taking the child away will be asked to produce the written consent. This request is usually made by border officials, either in the UK or at the destination, and tends to arise when the child has a different surname to the travelling parent. Having the letter and any supporting documentation detailed above, will ensure any questions can be answered fully and with ease.

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