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Can I take my children abroad when I am separated from their other parent?

Most parents want to take their children on holiday and in general this is fine. Of course, details of any trip should usually be shared with the other parent if they are involved in the child’s life and adequate notice given so as not to adversely impact any contact arrangements.  However, many people do not know that it is likely to be a criminal offence to take your children abroad – whether for a day trip or a two-week holiday – without the permission of everyone who has parental responsibility.  In this article, we specifically deal with separated parents on the basis that a child is living with the parents because if you are separated, this is a factor that you need to consider carefully.  Here, Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family law team offers some guidance.

children abroadWhose permission do I need to take my children abroad?

You need permission from everyone who has parental responsibility to take your children abroad if you do not have a child arrangements order (live with order – previously residence order) in place (see below).  If you have children with different parents, you will need permission from all those other parents and anyone else who shares parental responsibility with you.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility refers to the legal rights, responsibilities, duties and authority you—as a parent or person assigned parental responsibility by a court order — have in respect of your child. It applies to all mothers and most fathers, but not all.  Find out more here.  Parental responsibility can be delegated to other adults such as grandparents or unmarried partners by going through the courts.

How do I get permission from my children’s other parent to take them abroad?

If you are on good enough terms, you can ask your ex-partner directly for permission to take your children abroad.  Most other parents would not deny their children a holiday. Permission must be given in writing.  If you cannot ask your ex-partner directly, you can ask a solicitor to contact them and request it.

I have a child arrangements order – do I need permission from the other parent?

If you have a child arrangements order (live with order) that says that your children must live with you (and not just spend time with you), you can take them abroad for up to 28 days without the permission of others with parental responsibility. You will not need written consent in this situation.  If you want to take your children abroad for more than 28 days, you will need a different child arrangements order.

However, whilst a holiday should not be denied unless for significant and compelling reasons, it is usually still necessary to provide the other parent with adequate notice of any holiday and details so that contact arrangements can be addressed.  If you fail to do this, the other parent can apply to the court for an order to stop the holiday (see below) even if you have a live with order in place.

If there is a court order in place, ensure you read the terms carefully – breach of an order can result in a fine, unpaid work or imprisonment.

What if my ex won’t give permission for me to take my children abroad?

If you cannot agree with your ex without court intervention, and they will not give permission for you to take your children abroad, you will need to make an application to court.  You are likely to have to attend a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) (unless an exemption applies or the application is urgent) before making the application.

In most cases, as it is likely to be in the best interests of the child, and providing there are no concerns about the child not returning, the location is safe and it does not interfere with their education, the court will grant a specific issues order giving permission for the holiday.

How long can I take my children abroad for if I have permission from those with parental responsibility?

Effectively, there is no limit on the length of time for which you can take your children abroad if you have permission from the other person with parental responsibility.  Your written permission will need to state the length of time they have agreed to.

Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family law team

Can I take my grandchildren abroad without their parents?

Yes, providing you have written permission from all those with parental responsibility.

I have a different surname to my children, can I take them abroad?

It is not unusual for parents to have different surnames to their children, and it does not mean that you cannot take them abroad.  However, it is still common to be questioned at either the UK or overseas border about this and so it is a good idea to carry evidence of why they have a different surname, such as a birth or adoption certificate, a marriage certificate showing your new name or proof of a change of name.

However, if you are travelling without the other parent and you do not have a child arrangements order, you should still have written permission from the other parent or a specific issues order allowing the holiday.

Should I take any documentation with me when taking my children abroad without their other parent?

You should always carry written permission from the other person with parental responsibility or the child arrangements order that gives you permission to take your children abroad.  It is also a good idea to carry:

  • Evidence as to why your surname is different (as above)
  • Full details of your trip
  • The other parent’s contact details

Can the other parent refuse permission for me to take my children abroad?

Yes, this is possible if they have any concerns.  They will need to apply to court for a prohibited steps order. In some cases, the court can remove the child’s passport to stop them from travelling abroad.

If you need help obtaining permission to take your children abroad or dealing with a court order regarding your children, contact our family law experts now.  We have many years’ experience helping parents to sort out such issues and can offer a free half-hour appointment to new clients in which we can discuss your circumstances and advise what your next steps should be.

Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family law team.

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