03 September 2015
Do you need consent to take your children abroad this Christmas?
Once the children are back at school after the summer break, it seems there’s barely a moment’s peace before it’s time to start looking at plans for the Christmas holidays. If you’re a separated parent and these plans include a trip overseas, then Sue Andrews, family partner, has some timely words of advice.
Marking the festive season with a trip overseas is increasingly popular – whether it’s to see Father Christmas in Lapland, visit relatives overseas, have a holiday in the sun, or go whizzing down ski slopes.
All the best laid plans can go awry however, if one very important issue isn’t addressed well in advance.
If you are a divorced or separated parent, then you will need the consent of your former partner, who has parental responsibility, to take your child or children outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales.
This means that even if you are considering a trip to Ireland to see (for example) granny and granddad, or to enjoy Hogmanay in Scotland, you still need their agreement.
Without such permission, taking such a trip actually amounts to child abduction and your former partner could stop the trip.
If there is a Child Arrangement Order stating that the child lives with you, then this enables you to take the child out of England and Wales for up to a month without the consent of your former partner, albeit you must still let him or her know your plans because the trip may impact upon the time the child is able to spend with them.
Most separated parents however, don’t have such an Order, because they will have been able to agree the week-by-week time children spend with each of them.
As soon as you contemplate a trip, talk to your former partner about your ideas and plans. The more detail they have, the more likely they are to see it as a great opportunity for the child.
If the purpose of the visit is to see relatives living overseas, then highlight the advantages of keeping in touch. If it’s a holiday, then talk about the fabulous new sights and experiences the youngsters will have.
Share information, such as who else is going on the trip and where you will be staying, as these are all important touch points for the stay-at-home parent to understand and be comfortable with. You also need to highlight how the balance of the children's school holiday, and time both before and after the trip, can be spent with them.
Of course, we recognise that communication can be difficult and, in some cases, it may have broken down altogether, but approaches in this positive way and well ahead of time, should help the other parent to see the benefits of such a trip.
What happens if a parent says no?
Nevertheless, despite such an approach, some parents may be adamant that they do not want their child to go abroad. If that occurs, then you should speak to an experienced family solicitor, who will aim to resolve the situation amicably through discussion.
If this isn’t successful and no resolution is in sight, then you may need to apply to court for permission. A judge, who will give full consideration to the views of both parents, will decide matters having regard to what is in the best interests of the child. Where the plan is to have a holiday abroad, about which the court has full details, it would be unusual for permission to be refused, unless the destination is to a dangerous location or there is a genuine fear that the parent and children may not return at the end of the holiday.
Any court application will take time and incur expense, which brings us back to where we started, which is the need to plan and discuss trips well in advance. In this instance, Christmas really is just around the corner.