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Are you planning to take your child abroad during half-term?

The government relaxed travel restrictions from 4th October 2021 – just in time for the half-term school holiday – and bookings for holidays abroad have surged.

child abroad

The traffic light system will change and there will just be a red list (countries that you should not visit) and the rest of the world – this will include most of the popular tourist destinations such as France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. COVID testing before your return to England will be scrapped, providing you are fully vaccinated, and by the end of October (hopefully this could be in time for the half-term holidays), you will be able to take a lateral flow test within two days of returning to England, rather than the more expensive PCR test.  Currently, children under five don’t need to test upon arrival, so that is likely to remain the same under the new rules.  You will, however, still have to complete a passenger locator form for each adult, but up to seven children under 18 can be included on your form.  So, fewer hoops to jump through, but you will need to find out what the rules are in the country you are going to, as they are all slightly different.

However, one thing has not changed.  If you are planning to take your child out of the country and you are separated or divorced from their other parent, you will need to make sure that you have the right to do so.

Do I have the right to take my child abroad?

You may not realise that, unless you have been granted a child arrangements order  stating that the child should live with you, and you are going away for less than 28 days, you could be committing a criminal offence in England if you take your child out of the country without the other parent’s, or the court’s, permission.  If there is no order in place, you will need permission from all those who have parental responsibility for the child.

Parental responsibility

All mothers automatically have parental responsibility. Any father who is, or who has been, married to the child’s mother has parental responsibility for that child.  Equally, an unmarried father who is registered on the child’s birth certificate and who was present at the time of registration, after 1 December 2003, has parental responsibility.

Fathers can acquire parental responsibility by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, which gives the father parental responsibility for their child.  Both parents will have to agree to this.  In some cases, a father can obtain parental responsibility by having his name put on the child’s birth certificate or by court order.

What if I don’t have parental responsibility?

Holidays can be really good for children and hopefully you will both be able to agree on the practicalities of taking a child abroad. However, if your separation was acrimonious, this agreement can be difficult to obtain and you may need to get a court order, known as a specific issue order.  When considering the order, the child’s wellbeing is paramount, and the court will consider:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (taking into account his or her age and understanding).
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The likely effect on the child.
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant.
  • Any harm that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
  • How capable each of the child’s parents is in meeting the child’s needs.
child abroad

Bradie Pell

Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family department:

“Holidays are definitely beneficial to children – as well as their parents.  Clearly, if you have parental responsibility, you should be able to take your child on holiday without any difficulties. However, if you don’t, and the child’s other parent has given their permission (particularly if your child has a different surname to you), it’s advisable to have a letter from the other parent, that you can show to passport control, saying that you have the necessary permission.”

If you can come to an agreement with each other about taking your children on holiday, with or without a solicitor’s help, it will be beneficial for all. If you do need to get a court order, you should be aware that, at present, there are delays at court and it is proving difficult to get a court hearing quickly.  Clearly, this will increase the time it can take to get a court order relating to your children.

If you need help in reaching a solution relating to taking your children on holiday, contact one of our family law experts now.  We have vast experience in assisting parents quickly, professionally and with as little stress as possible. 

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

You have landed on this page as Watson Esam has merged with Graysons

You can read more about the merger here. Graysons will be pleased to help with your enquiry. Please visit our web pages or contact us directly on 0114 358 9009


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