The summer holidays are fast approaching, and you may be thinking about booking a holiday abroad (i.e. outside of England and Wales) with your child(ren). This should be an exciting time for all concerned but where parents are separated, the arrangements for travelling abroad can be complicated and it is best to try and get everything sorted well in advance of your departure date.

Where both parents have parental responsibility, written consent is needed

If you and the other parent both have parental responsibility for your child(ren), and there is no child arrangements order in place, then neither of you are permitted to take your child(ren) abroad, without the other parent’s consent. Ideally, consent should be in writing to avoid any future disagreements about what was agreed. Additionally, you may be asked to provide the other parent’s written consent to travel abroad when you leave the jurisdiction (England and Wales), or upon arrival in the other country. If you do take your child(ren) abroad, without the consent of the other parent, this would be classed as child abduction, which is a criminal offence.

What if consent is unreasonably withheld?

If you ask for consent to travel from the other parent, but this is unreasonably withheld, then you may need to make an application to court to take your child(ren) abroad.

You would need to apply for a specific issue order (note: if this application is granted, it is only valid for the specific holiday you wish to take. It cannot be used for any/all future holidays). If you do apply for a specific issue order, the Judge will consider why the other parent is objecting to the child travelling, and whether their objections are justified.

Consent should not be unreasonably withheld, such as due to arguments or hostility between the parents and should only be legitimate concerns about the child(ren), such as that the travelling parent may not return the child(ren) at the end of the holiday, or about the safety of the child(ren) whilst abroad. The court will look for evidence that the child(ren) will be returned, such as return tickets, and consider whether the holiday destination is a safe and appropriate destination for the child(ren). Ultimately, the Judge decides what is in the child(ren)’s best interests and whether the child(ren) would benefit from the holiday.

What if my child(ren) lives with me?

If you have a child arrangements order in place confirming that the child(ren) lives with you, then you can take your child(ren) outside of the jurisdiction (England and Wales), for up to 28 days without the other parent’s consent. Having said this, it is good parenting to inform the other parent of your intention to travel and still obtain their consent as above. It is a good idea to provide the following information to the other parent before travelling, to lessen any concerns they may have:

  1. Your departure and return dates.
  2. Your flight/travel information.
  3. Details of where your child(ren) will be staying for the duration of the trip.
  4. Up to date contact details for you and the child(ren).

If you are a special guardian you can take the child(ren) subject to the special guardianship order for up to three months.

I am worried my child(ren) could be taken abroad and not returned home – what do I do?

If you are concerned that your child(ren) could be taken abroad and not returned home, then you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order. This is a court order that says the child(ren) must not be taken anywhere outside of the jurisdiction (England and Wales).

If the Judge decides that there is a real risk that the child(ren) would not be returned home, then they can make a prohibited steps order preventing travel abroad. It is much better to have a prohibited steps order in place before the child(ren) travels, rather than have to go to court after the child(ren) has gone abroad, to try to make the other parent return the child(ren) home.

Contact our expert team of family lawyers

Should you need advice on travelling abroad with your child(ren) or have concerns about your children being taken abroad without your consent, we have a large expert team of lawyers who would be happy to assist.

We can be contacted on 0203 440 8000 or by email:

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