If I’m separated, can I take my child on holiday?

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Travelling abroad from the UK has been severely restricted during the pandemic, and the rules around travel are still under review. However, for separated parents, the issue of international travel with children is especially difficult to navigate, particularly if there are underlying concerns about abduction.

So if you’re separated, can you take your child abroad without the other parent’s consent? The short answer is no, as Holly Kilpatrick, Trainee Solicitor in our Family department, outlines below.

Check the rules for the country you’re going to

Firstly, it’s important to check the Government’s latest foreign travel advice to familiarise yourself with any advice and regulations in relation to the place you want to travel to. This also includes rules for travelling with children during the pandemic.

Who has parental responsibility when travelling abroad?

Without any orders in place, it is down to the person/people with parental responsibility to decide whether a child can be taken abroad. Often, this is both parents, in which case either parent needs the written consent of the other (as well as anyone else with parental responsibility), even if it’s just for a week’s holiday.

It might sound excessive, but taking your child abroad without this permission is child abduction, whether intentional or otherwise.

Child Arrangements Order

If you have a Child Arrangements Order (previously called a Residence Order or Custody Order) stating that your child lives with you, you can take your child out of the UK for up to 28 days without the other parent’s written consent, even if they have parental responsibility, provided this is not in breach of a Court Order.

However, the person without the Child Arrangements Order will still need the other parent’s written consent if they wish to take their child abroad unless this has been ordered by the court.

Special Guardianship Order

If you have a Special Guardianship Order, you can also take a child out of the country for up to three months without the written consent of any other people who hold parental responsibility, provided this would not be in breach of any other court order.

What documents do I need to take when travelling abroad with my child?

A letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child is usually enough to show you’ve got permission to take them abroad. You might be asked for the letter at a UK or foreign border, or if there’s a dispute about taking a child abroad. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip.

It also helps if you have:

  • Evidence of your relationship with the child, e.g. a birth or adoption certificate
  • A marriage certificate or copy of your decree absolute if your marriage has been dissolved, if you are a single parent but your family name is different from the child’s

Getting permission from a court

If you share parental responsibility and can’t get consent from the other party, you can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order. You must provide details of your trip, where you’ll be going, with whom and for how long.

When the court reviews an application, it will act in the best interests of the child. This could include looking at the risks of coronavirus infection in a given country and how that would impact the child, especially if they were required to quarantine on their return. In reality, though, common sense usually prevails, and many risks can be mitigated by planning ahead.

The court will also consider the risk of international child abduction as part of its overall decision-making process.

Get in touch with our child law solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire

If you’re a parent wishing to take your child abroad, or if you wish to stop your child from being taken overseas, call our specialist child law solicitors on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.


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