15 June 2015
Passport, packing and parental permission: summer holiday essentials
With the school holidays just around the corner, many families will be well on their way to planning their summer break.
But whether you’re a last minute organiser or have had the dates booked for months in advance, there’s one very important issue which separated or divorced mums and dads need to have thought about.
That is whether you have the consent of the other parent to take their child abroad and, if not, if you need to obtain an order of the court.
A parent who wishes to take a child outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales must obtain the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility.
If this is ignored, then technically it could be considered child abduction – not the best recipe for a happy family break.
This also applies if one parent decides to let little James or Ellie go on holiday with their best friend’s family or, if they are older, with the school: everyone who has parental responsibility must always give their consent to a child being taken abroad, which includes Scotland and Ireland.
The only exception is if one parent has a Child Arrangement Order stating that the child lives with them, in which case that parent can take the child out of the country for up to a month without the consent of the other parent. This doesn't however mean that such a trip can be taken without reference to the other parent, because it will obviously impact upon the time the child would otherwise spend with them.
Most separated parents are unlikely to have a formal Child Arrangement Order, as it is not necessary to do so if both can agree the appropriate arrangements.
For a variety of reasons however, there may be some parents who say no to their child going overseas with the other parent.
They may be concerned for example, about who else will be holidaying with the child, or possibly about the risk of the child not being returned at the conclusion of the holiday.
If communication is difficult (or non-existent) and there are genuine issues about gaining consent, or one parent wishes to stop a former partner taking the child away, then the earlier a lawyer is consulted, the better.
An experienced family solicitor will try to resolve the situation amicably through correspondence or mediation and, if no resolution is in sight, will apply to the local Family Court, outlining the reasons behind the application.
The parent who doesn’t want the child to go must be very clear about their reasons for not giving their permission, especially if the absent parent takes good care and acts responsibly for the child when looking after him or her closer to home.
It is then up to the court to make a decision as to whether to give permission for the child to be taken abroad on holiday. If there are specific concerns, these can be covered by undertakings given, such as ensuring the child is not left alone with a particular person or is not allowed to travel to a certain country.
Obtaining such an order is not to be left to the last minute, as it can take time for the court to list a hearing and the matter to be resolved. This is not something you want to go through if you are biting your nails at the prospect of losing your holiday booking.
Thankfully, in my experience, family disputes over children’s holidays can usually be resolved without the need to attend court.
In most cases, the fact that each parent plans to take their son or daughter on holiday will be celebrated as a great way for the children to enjoy time with each of them – not to mention the bonus for them of a double holiday.
Many parents will actively plan to share holiday time with their children, not least because it’s also a chance for the parent left at home to have some “me time” or maybe take a separate break without the responsibility of childcare.
The secret of getting it right is forward planning – if everyone knows in plenty of time what the plans are, then there should be no hiccups.
We always recommend sharing as much information as possible so, for example, give the other parent the holiday brochure or online details, flight and emergency contact details and also information about who else will be on the trip.
Assurances should also be given about staying in touch, so the parent on holiday should encourage the youngster to call home during the stay to reassure mum or dad that they are having a lovely time.
Doing this provides a real comfort factor for all concerned, after all most parents will understandably not wish to send their child abroad without knowing where they are staying and how to contact them.
Top tips for a happy holiday
- Forward planning: ask the absent parent for consent as early as possible
- Share important holiday information and contact details
- Make sure the consent is in writing and take a copy with you on holiday
- Ensure your child stays in touch while away