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Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

08 August

Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

Taking your child/children abroad can sometimes be complicated, but if travelling alone with them do you need the other parent's permission to do so?

In short the answer could be yes.

If you are a separated parent and there is no Child Arrangements Order (CAO) in place to regulate who the child lives with and spends time with, you will need permission from every person with parental responsibility (PR) for the child before you can remove them from England & Wales. PR means: all of the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has, in relation to the child and their property by law. 

It is worth mentioning that it has been known for immigration officials to question parents taking their child on holiday without the other parent, even though the couple may be married and the other parent may be completely aware of the holiday. To avoid this potential unnecessary stress, it would be worth asking the parent who is NOT coming on the holiday, to provide a consent form or write a letter confirming their consent. It’s better to be safe than sorry in all circumstances!

The summer holidays are starting and many parents, together or separated, may be considering this issue. Getting this right is very important to ensure a relaxing break away with your little ones. 


Can I take my child on holiday without their father/mother’s consent?

Firstly, consider who has PR for the child. A biological mother would automatically have PR. A father named on the child’s birth certificate, or married to the child’s mother at the date the child was born, will have PR. PR can also be acquired by a Court Order or a Parental Responsibility Agreement.

To take your child out of England & Wales, you will need the consent of everyone who shares PR for the child, unless you have a CAO. 


Is permission needed to travel with my children?

If there is a CAO in place stating that the child lives with you, you technically only need to get consent from the other parent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days. 

Aside from this, if you don’t have the permission of every other person with PR for the child, you are committing child abduction. This is punishable by imprisonment or a fine – no way to get your holiday started!


How do I get permission from my child’s father/mother to take them abroad?

Before travelling, make sure that passports, if held by the other parent, are handed over in good time to avoid last minute problems.

We recommend that you ask the other parent to sign a consent form or write a letter confirming their consent. This needs to provide the full contact details of the other parent and they should sign it. It also needs to also include details of the trip with dates, destination and address. You could also attach a copy of the other parent’s passport. 

Make sure that you provide the other parent with all of the necessary information on your travel plans and accommodation, as well as emergency contact information.

This is sensible and courteous, and will hopefully calm the other parent’s anxieties as much as possible, whether this is an overseas destination or a camping trip in Scotland.


What if the other parent doesn’t respond?

If you can’t get hold of your co-parent or they don’t respond, you have to be able to show that you’ve made reasonable efforts to contact them. They must give a good reason to refuse permission and can’t unreasonably refuse.

Avoiding upset with the child’s other parent

If your child would usually be having direct contact with their other parent during the time of the holiday, you could consider offering indirect contact instead. This could be just a quick video or phone call, but it allows the kids to share their holiday experience with the other parent. It could also help to put the other parent at ease and feel less excluded.


Can my ex spouse stop me from taking my child on holiday?

  1. If the other parent is refusing to allow your child to come abroad with you, it’s always best to discuss the situation with them directly if possible. You could discuss their concerns and you may be able to alleviate them. If a conversation like this is unlikely, you could consider an attempt at Mediation. This is a voluntary process where a neutral third party attempts to assist both parents in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
  1. If mediation has proved ineffective, or you feel that relations are too strained with the other parent, instructing a solicitor to write to them may be better. The solicitor could attempt to reach an agreement. “Safeguards” can be offered, such as confirming flight and accommodation details, or allowing video calls whilst on the holiday.
  1. If your child’s other parent refuses to allow you to take the child abroad, you may need to consider taking more formal steps. You may need to apply to Court if your relationship with the other parent is volatile. The Court always focus on the child’s best interests and can decide on specific issues such as whether a child can be removed from the jurisdiction - a Specific Issues Order (SPO).


Can I apply to Court to take my child on holiday?

An SPO can be made at short notice which can be necessary if the other parent is causing avoidable delays and is refusing without good reason. But, going to Court is both financially and emotionally costly – it should really be a last resort.

We strongly suggest that you try to take a sensitive and courteous outlook towards the feelings of the other parent. Keep the best interests of the children at the heart of your thoughts. Compromise and being reasonable is the most effective way to achieve your desired outcome without added stress and expense. But, this cannot always work if relationships are strained and ultimately, there are other ways to ensure the best outcome for your little ones.

To make the most of the summer holidays, don’t leave it until the last minute - we are here to help you today. If you require assistance with taking your children on holiday, please contact the Family Department on 0114 249 5969.