I think we can all agree, the ability to travel abroad for a spot of summer sun has been a long time coming following our enforced staycations of the last couple of years.
Many families are looking to book long postponed holidays or much longed for breaks since the pandemic struck. If you have recently separated, before you pack your swimming trunks and check your passport dates, think carefully about your holiday. Have you checked its impact on the other parent and their plans? Booking a holiday before speaking with the other parent can be a huge source of contention on both an emotional and practical level.
Without a children’s order in place it is an offence under the Abduction Act to remove a child from the jurisdiction of the UK without the permission of all persons with “parental responsibility”. If you take the child out of the country you run the risk of an emergency prohibitive order and being stopped by border control, ruining your hard earned break. If you already have a “lives with” court order in your favour (the old “residence” order), then you are legally permitted to take a child out of the country for a period of up to 28 days. This can be without the specific permission of the other parent, but it is good practice to agree any plans well in advance, whether you have an order or not.
Parental responsibility is acquired as follows:
Communication is key. Whether you have a “lives with” order in place or not, the first thing you should do is discuss your plans with the other parent (well in advance of any plans and before booking) – even if the holiday falls squarely in your “agreed time”. Share information about the travel arrangements. Provide contact information, flight and accommodation details and take insurance to reassure the other parent. In these cases it can be helpful to imagine the shoe being on the other proverbial foot. Imagine arrangements being made unilaterally without reference to you or what you had planned. Share the detail with your partner that you would want.
If the proposed holidays cut into the other parents time, be flexible, offer to swap days if possible. Of course, flexibility cuts both ways! Agree how the child can keep in touch with the other parent whilst away, by FaceTime, WhatsApp, text, photos etc. If you still struggle to communicate with your former partner there are lots of family based Apps/shared diaries on the market to help you to maintain lines of communication.
Holidays are an opportunity to spend quality time together. It might be tough for a parent to be removed from their child for a block of time – but it is hard to challenge the benefits of a holiday and prove it might not be in the best interests of the child.
There are occasions where no matter what, parents cannot see eye to eye. In these circumstances think about ways to break the deadlock. A trusted family member might help to mediate or you could consider professional family mediation. As a last resort, or if there is simply not the time to mediate, the court can step in and make a “Specific Issue” order to determine whether the holiday can go ahead.
Timing is crucial, providing key information at an early stage will provide ample time to try the alternative dispute options and, if all else fails, an application to the court. The court will look at, and consider any reasonable objections to the holiday. For example, a fortnight in Orlando might be considered different to a ten day unsupported trek across the Amazon jungle! If permission is unreasonably refused and a direct loss is caused as a consequence, the court has the power to order compensation to the parent losing out.
From a practical position, if traveling overseas ensure the following:
Please note that the above practical arrangements apply if you have another child travelling with you as a companion to your own.
Holidays abroad are a fabulous opportunity for children to experience different cultures and ways of life. However, decisions about these arrangements cannot be made by one parent alone. Both parents still need to be involved, particularly whilst the children are young. On the plus side many children of separated parents have the fabulous opportunity to have two family holidays rather than one!
Published on 30 May 2022