Travelling abroad with children over the summer holidays for most is an exciting family experience. But for some separated families it is not always straight forward.
Where both parents have parental responsibility for the child (and there are no existing court orders) consent from the other parent must be obtained if you wish to take the child out of England or Wales. Without such consent you run the risk of committing the criminal offence of child abduction. If there is an order in place, such as a lives with order, it may be that consent is not required. Legal advice should be sought if you have any uncertainty around this to avoid any potentially difficult situations.
Even if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility it is always sensible to seek their consent where possible.
Obtaining written consent rather than verbal consent will mean that you have some physical evidence to travel with. This can also help in the event of a dispute about whether the other parent actually gave consent to the trip. Details should include:
Advance communication is key to ensuring that there is plenty of time to iron out any difficulties that may arise around consent. If a court application is required it is essential that there is sufficient time for the application to be drafted, issued at court, served on the other parent and listed for a hearing. So leaving it until the morning of the intended trip will be too late.
Border control may ask you to provide evidence of:
Suggested travel documents include: the written consent from the other parent, the holiday details (flight times/dates/location), divorce/marriage certificate, contact details of the other parent and the child’s birth certificate.
These documents can also help clarify any issue that may arise about the child’s surname if it is different from yours.
An application to court would be required. This is why giving as much notice to the other parent is sensible so that there is sufficient time for such an application if necessary. A judge will consider the application, whether it is in the best interests of the child and the reasons why the other parent is refusing the holiday. Usually, if the application is for a holiday abroad and the parent intending to travel abroad can evidence their holiday details, including return flight details, the court will grant consent for the holiday.
If there is sufficient time before the holiday then alternatives such as mediation or arbitration may assist the parents. If there is a court order or parental agreement in place but parenting remains high conflict, a parental co-ordinator may be able to help the parents improve communications and reduce the conflict.
Published on 18 May 2023