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Travelling abroad with children – a guide for separated parents Travelling abroad with children – a guide for separated parents

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Jan 24

Travelling abroad with children – a guide for separated parents

Written by Claire Hunter

DDI: 01423 726620
E: claire.hunter@raworths.co.uk

Taking your child on a holiday abroad is not always as simple as booking, paying for the holiday and enjoying the countdown. If you are separated from the child’s other parent you may have to seek the other parents’ consent for this trip which is not always straightforward.   If you are intending to take your child out of the jurisdiction and you are required to obtain another person’s consent, and do not do so, there can be very serious consequences which can include committing the criminal offence of child abduction.  By taking a child out of the jurisdiction we mean out of England and Wales.

The legal position will differ depending on your specific circumstances but here are some commonly asked questions and answers for separated parents taking children abroad.

Do you require the other parent’s consent to take your child out of the jurisdiction?

It is always sensible to seek consent from everyone who has parental responsibility for the child.  If 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.  If however, there is a child arrangements order in place, such as a lives with order, it may be that consent is not required.  We can advise on whether consent should be sought if you have any uncertainty around this.

What information should I provide the other parent with when seeking their consent?

Obtaining written consent rather than verbal consent will mean that you have some physical evidence to travel with (and this can also help in the event of a dispute about whether the other parent actually gave their consent to the trip).   Details should include outbound and return travel dates and times, the country you are intending to travel to with the child and ideally the address/phone numbers of where the child will be staying.

Advance communication is key to ensuring that there is sufficient time to discuss any issues or attend mediation.  If an agreement is not reached and 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. Leaving it until the morning of the intended trip will be too late.

Should I take any documents with me when travelling?

Border control may ask you to provide evidence:

  • of the permission you have to take the child out of the country
  • of your relationship to relationship to the child

Suggested travel documents include:

  • written consent from the other parentthe
  • holiday details (flight times/dates/location)
  • evidence of your divorce/marriage
  • contact details of the other parent
  • the child’s birth certificate.  This will also help if your surname differs from your child’s.

What if consent is refused?

There are many reasons why a parent may refuse consent. They could be concerned about a child’s safety whilst on the trip particularly if the trip involves a risky activity like skiing, they may have a specific concern about the destination of the proposed trip, a concern that the child will not be returned to this jurisdiction or they may be concerned about missing their time with their child whilst they are away.

If consent is refused an application to court would be required. Giving as much notice of the proposed trip as possible to the other parent is sensible so that there is time to try and reach an agreement.  Before an application to court you may want to consider alternative ways to resolve your dispute such as mediation or parenting co-ordination.  If an agreement cannot be reached an application to court will be necessary so it is important to ensure that there is sufficient time for the application to be issued. A judge will have to consider whether the proposed holiday 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 you would like further information please contact a member of the Raworths’ family team on 01423 566666 or claire.hunter@raworths.co.uk

Updated and republished on 23 January 2024

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