We’re all going on a summer holiday

With the summer fast approaching, many divorced and separated parents will want to take their children on a well-deserved summer break.

However, whether you can legally take your children abroad without the consent of the other parent, or anyone else with parental responsibility, will depend on your individual circumstances.

Should I seek the consent of the other parent?

If there is a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) in place and you are the parent with whom the child is to live, then you can legally take your child out of the UK for up to one month without the consent of the other parent. You can do this as many times as you wish, as long as each individual trip does not last longer than one month.

However, we would always advise that, where possible, you seek the consent of every person with parental responsibility in any event to keep things amicable and so that the other parent, or persons with parental responsibility, are made aware of your plans.

A parent who is not named in the CAO as the person with whom the child should live must seek the consent of the other, before the child is taken on holiday.

What is parental responsibility?

(PR) is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. The gestational mother (the mother who carries the baby to term) will automatically have PR.

The biological father will obtain this if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth, is named on the birth certificate, has entered into a “parental responsibility agreement”, has applied to the court for a “Parental Responsibility Order”, has been appointed as a guardian, has obtained a CAO or has married the mother after the child is born.Young girl surfing in Devon

Can the other parent stop me from taking our child on holiday?

Even if there is an existing CAO in place, if the other parent objects then they can make an application to the court for a “Prohibited Steps Order” for the court to decide whether the holiday should go ahead.

When considering such an application the court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare. Generally, courts do consider that a holiday is in the best interests of the child and they will not look favourably upon a parent who withholds their consent to “score points” against the other.

What if there is no CAO in place?

If a Child Arrangements Order has not been made then in theory, either party can take the child abroad without the consent of the other. However, we would warn against doing so as you may be faced with an application for a “Prohibited Steps Order” or even charges of child abduction, should you proceed to take them out of the country without consent or a court order.

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is an offence for a parent of a child or any person with parental responsibility, to take or send their child out of the UK without the consent of all the persons with parental responsibility or permission from the court. This does not apply where there is a CAO in place (see above).

Top tips

  • Always get consent in writing from every person who holds parental responsibility for the child, in good time.
  • If you have written consent, take a copy of this with you to the airport as some airlines check that the child being taken abroad is not being trafficked.
  • If you are concerned that someone plans to or has already taken your child abroad without your consent, then seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Your solicitor will then give your further guidance on your options.
  • If the other parent (or those holding PR) refuse their consent, then consider making a “Specific Issue Order” for the court to decide the issue. Again, your legal advisor will be able to provide you with further advice.

Should you require any further information or assistance with the above then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team, who will be pleased to assist.

Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors which is a leading Family Law Solicitors Practice in the South West, with offices in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Weston-Super-Mare and consulting rooms in Yeovil and Bridgwater. Here Imogen discusses whether parents are able to take their children on holiday following divorce or separation.