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divorce summer holiday children arrangements

Summer Holiday Children Arrangements4th Jun 2021

by Anna Burton on 4th Jun 2021

Contact Anna Burton

Disputes Over Taking Children On Holiday 

Summer holiday children arrangements are always a big area of dispute for separated or divorced parents. But Covid19 has made the issue even more complex and stressful.

Many parents worry if their former partner wants to take their children abroad. What if an approved ‘green’ destination suddenly suffers a fresh Covid outbreak and is then rated ‘amber’ or ‘red’?

And how safe are the airports? How well do they separate passengers returning from green countries from those arriving from red or amber countries?

Even a supposedly safe staycation in the UK carries risks. As I write this, the UK’s Covid19 infection map is starting to look worrying again.

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Can I Stop My Former Partner From Taking My Children Abroad?

Taking a child abroad requires the permission of both parents (and/or anyone else with parental responsibility). The child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility. The father will have parental responsibility if:

  • he was married to the mother at the time of (or after) the birth
  • his name is on the child’s birth certificate
  • a court granted a Parental Responsibility Order
  • he obtained a Parental Responsibility Agreement from the mother.

Your former partner cannot take your child abroad without your written permission. Yes, you could refuse permission. Or you could take it a stage further by applying for a Prohibited Steps Order under the Children Act 1989. But this takes time.

So they may go on holiday regardless – knowing that it may be too late for you to get a court order. By the time your application goes to court, your ex will be back in the UK and their tan will have long since faded.

But that approach isn’t likely to win them many friends in legal circles. They’ll find it much harder to pull the same stunt again in future. And you could hit them with an order for court costs. That can be expensive when the average 45-minute hearing works out at £1,500 plus VAT. 

So in most normal circumstances, divorced or separated parents come to a sensible agreement over children arrangements during the holiday season. But the last 18 months have been far from normal…


What If Travelling Abroad Jeopardises My Child’s Welfare?

You can alert the authorities if you believe that your child’s welfare is at risk. If they agree, they can issue a port alert to prevent your former partner and your child from travelling abroad.

And if your former partner attempts to take your child on holiday in defiance of a court order then they could be guilty of child abduction.

But such cases are extremely rare. The reality for most divorced and separated couples is that they must compromise and reach an agreement. So most do. Dragging it all through the courts can get very expensive if they don’t. 


Can I Take My Child On Holiday If My Former Partner Is Being Unreasonable?

Some former partners may refuse permission just to be awkward and mean-spirited. They are prepared to dash their child’s hopes of a holiday just to get back at their ex.

If you think they’re being unreasonable, you can apply to court for Specific Issue Order under the Children Act 1989.

Unfortunately, there will be delays because the courts are backed up with cases; summer may be long gone before your matter reaches the front of the queue. That may prompt you to go on holiday regardless. We would not recommend it – to do so could involve:

  • further litigation
  • court costs
  • the court’s displeasure if you take the law into your own hands or are unwilling to compromise.

So again, it pays to be reasonable. Even if your former partner isn’t. You’ll find they’ll suddenly become surprisingly reasonable if court costs are an issue.

We can help you to reach an agreement with your former partner. It is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than going to court (especially when even some urgent cases are struggling to get a hearing before a judge).

Remember – seeking a workable agreement for the good of your children does not mean being weak and caving in. We’re here to help you find the best possible solution.


Change Of Name

Aside from all the issues outlined above, there is also the matter of passports. A child will have their father’s surname. That will be the name on the child’s passport. But the mother’s surname may be different.

She may have reverted to her maiden name. So the surname on her passport may not be the same as the surname on her child’s passport.

This can cause all kinds of issues at passport control, depending on how reasonable the border force is in the country concerned.

The solution is a change of name document but you’ll need the permission of your former partner before proceeding.


Further Reading


Get Expert Legal Advice

Given the backlog in the courts, it pays to get expert legal advice as soon as possible. Going to court should always be a last resort – there are plenty of alternatives that are easier, faster and more cost-effective.

Contact Coles Miller family law solicitor Anna Burton for more information.