If there is not a court order in place, what first needs to be considered is whether you have parental responsibility. If both parents share parental responsibility, then what is often overlooked is that you will need to get written consent from the other parent in order to take your child out of the United Kingdom (Section 13 (2) of the Children Act 1989). Failing to do so could lead to you committing an offence of abduction for which you can be fined, imprisoned or both.
Should consent be unreasonably withheld, then an application to Court can be made. The Judge will take into account the individual circumstances of each family, and if permission is given (which it often is) then specific travel details will need to be provided. These will include the dates of travel, address details for where the child will be staying and any flight numbers.
The Court rarely denies permission to take a child on holiday abroad where there is an existing relationship between the parent and child and the plans are reasonable in all of the circumstances. Where they do, it is usually in circumstances where the plans are patently not in the child’s best interests or where the Court deems the child may not be returned to the country.
The child’s best interests
If only the mother has parental responsibility, and again there are no Court orders in place, then permission is not necessarily needed to take a child abroad on holiday. That being said, and with your child’s best interests at heart, consultation should always take place with the other parent (if they are in regular contact with the child) in order to reach an agreement that is right for everyone. As a father without parental responsibility, should you not agree to your child being taken abroad, you can apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order and a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the trip.
What if my children’s grandparents want to take them abroad on holiday?
Should other members of the family, such as a grandparent, wish to take a child abroad, then it is worth noting that permission will be needed from both parents who have parental responsibility, and not just from one. Again, it’s really helpful if you can maintain good relationships with everyone in your extended family, but if that isn’t the case, then we recommend getting good legal advice well in advance of any proposed trip.
What if my child has a surname different from my own?
You also need to be aware that customs officers may insist on extra checks where a child is travelling with somebody who has a different surname to them. In these circumstances and in order to avoid any hold ups, it is always useful to take additional documents to the airport with you which can help to verify your child’s connection to you, such as the child’s birth certificate (which may provide the details of both parents’ surnames) and/or your marriage certificate (which will show the surnames before the marriage) and any existing court order and so on.
Open lines of communication
What is important is communication, and trying to agree any travel arrangements between you and the other parent in advance. This is not always possible, but if it can be achieved, it will avoid any applications to the court being necessary.