Getting Permission To Take My Child Abroad24th May 2019
Do I Need Permission To Take My Children On Holiday?
If you share parental responsibility with someone else then the answer is most likely ‘yes’.
Unsure about what parental responsibility means? Seek approval from your former partner before taking your children away on holiday. It’s the wise and courteous thing to do.
If you have a Child Arrangements Order (what used to be called a Residence/Custody Order), you’re entitled to take your child out of the country for up to 28 days without the written consent of the other parent.
However, we would always recommend obtaining a consent letter before travelling (especially if going abroad) – for these reasons:
- It is always good practice to be clear about what has been agreed
- If your former partner later changes their mind and withdraws consent (and you have to go to court), you will have written confirmation of what was first agreed. This saves time (and possibly money)
- You may need to show written proof to Border Control officers if the surname on your child’s passport differs from your surname. They may not let you travel otherwise.
One option is a change of name deed for your child. We can help; in simple cases the process is quick (around a day) and costs £120 inc VAT. You will need the permission of your former partner before proceeding. If they refuse you can apply to court – but some judges can be reluctant to approve this because you are changing the identity of your child.
What Form Should The Written Permission Take? Is An Email Or Text Okay?
In theory, a text or email would be acceptable – but a formal child travel letter is better. It looks more professional and is more likely to be accepted at passport control if you are going abroad.
Put yourself in the position of the border guard: a frantic parent is waving their mobile at you…pointing to a badly written text/email…and demanding you let them board their imminent flight. It does not look good. It is also embarrassing for the child.
So prepare well in advance. Ask your former partner to write a proper letter. Template consent forms or letters are available online to speed the process up.
Do I Need To Ask Anyone Else’s Permission?
In most cases you will be obtaining permission from one person – your former partner.
But it is legally possible for more than two people to have parental responsibility. So you will need to ask for written consent from anyone who is legally recognised as a parent.
That could include a:
- step-parent or guardian
- surrogate mother
- known sperm donor who is the child’s biological father.
What If My Former Partner Suddenly Withdraws Consent?
Sadly, this is quite common. Your former partner may be genuinely concerned for your child’s welfare – or they may just withdraw consent to spite you.
Either way, you may have to go to court to get permission to take your child on holiday. We can apply on your behalf for a Specific Issue Order under the Children Act 1989.
Bear in mind that the courts are very busy. They have a backlog of cases stretching back at least five or six weeks. If your departure date is fast approaching, your case could be heard earlier as an ‘emergency’ but this is far from certain.
How Can I Stop My Former Partner From Taking My Child Abroad?
You may be worried that your former partner is taking your child on holiday to a country that the Foreign Office advises is less safe than Britain.
Or your ex may be planning a holiday at an inappropriate time – such as the run-up to important exams for your child.
You may even be concerned that they are planning to remain abroad with your child. This is child abduction.
We can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order under the Children Act 1989. This prevents your former partner from taking a specific action (such as taking your child on holiday) without the approval of the court.
Child Abduction – How Can I Protect My Children?
It is child abduction if your former partner:
- takes your child without your consent
- takes your child with your approval…but then fails to return with them by the specified date.
These cases are mercifully rare but are becoming more common as more people marry or form relationships with partners from other countries.
Contact our family solicitors (01202 338800) immediately if you have any concerns about the welfare of your children.
If your children are likely to be taken out of the country in the next 48 hours and you are worried for their safety:
- hide their passports
- phone the police on 999 – they can issue a ‘port alert’ to stop your children from being taken out of the country
- contact Coles Miller (01202 338800) and ask for our family law solicitors.
Get Expert Legal Advice
The holiday season can bring added worries for parents who are divorced or separated. It can make children arrangements more complicated and can lead to disagreements at what should be a happy time.
Worried? Get expert legal advice from Coles Miller Partner Richard Perrins, head of our Family Law Department, 01202 355698.