2nd May 2023
It is the time of year where people start considering their summer holidays with the family, and with so many Bank Holidays this month, some might even consider going away sooner.
But a word of warning if you have children and are divorced or separated - you must have written permission from your ex before you take the kids abroad, a requirement that extends to everyone who has parental responsibility for a child.
Regardless of whether you are planning a three-day trip to Disneyland, Paris or a three-week holiday in the States, the only time you don’t need your partner’s permission is when you have an order from the court within the Children Act saying the child lives with you. Even then you can only take the child out of the country for up to 28 days without written permission.
If Granny and Grandad are taking the children abroad, bear in mind that they will need written permission from both parents, not just one.
But is this just petty bureaucracy or something more serious? For many families where there is an amicable separation this may seem like just a tick box. Sadly, however, there’s a real issue with parents absconding with their children, and both our UK and foreign border controls have a duty to make reasonable checks.
As a result, if permission is not sought, it could cause lot of problems at the UK or foreign border if you are asked for proof of permission and don’t have it. It could cause you to have your holiday cut short or in the worst-case scenario it could be a criminal matter of child abduction.
Thankfully, demonstrating permission is not complicated in most cases - a letter or email from your ex with his or her contact details on it may suffice. Just ask them to confirm their agreement, giving some basic details about the holiday such as the children, destination and timings. If you are going further afield then the embassies usually list the type of information their border controls may seek, and it may always be worthwhile researching at the embassy websites in any event.
Other practical considerations before you go on holiday include making sure you have a copy of the permission letter, the children’s birth certificates and your marriage certificate with you, particularly if your surname is now different to your child’s.
But what if your former partner will not give permission? As a lawyer who manages this problem, the best advice is to try avoiding it in the first place. Always try to agree holidays where possible in advance and, importantly, before anything is booked. Keeping your former partner fully informed as to your plans can go a long way to prevent issues. Provide them with key information such as flight details, hotel details and a number you can be contacted on in case of emergency.
If this doesn’t work and they refuse, the only way to travel without permission is to apply to the court. But be warned, these proceedings can take some time and you may need legal support, so if you think there may be an issue it’s worth allowing two-to-three months for it to be resolved. The good news is that provided there are no serious welfare concerns or risks of abduction, the court usually grants permission.
The Thrings Family Team is experienced in all areas of the law that are close to home. Whether it is marriages and pre-nuptial agreements, or divorces and separations, they will put your best interests first, taking the time to get to know you so that you are supported with sound advice tailored to your needs. To find out more, get in contact.