Can I take my children on holiday abroad? Family law

It is that time of year when we start to plan our family holidays. You may already be separated or divorced. I am often asked the question, do I need to ask the other’s permission to take the kids away? Do I just book and take them anyway?

The answer depends on whether you have “parental responsibility” for the child because, and this can come as a surprise, it is the criminal offence of child abduction to take your child out of this legal jurisdiction (i.e. out of England and Wales) without the permission of the other parent with parental responsibility. As the biological mother you automatically have parental responsibility. If, on or after the 1st December 2003, you are the father named on the child’s birth certificate then you, too, automatically have parental responsibility. The simple answer is, you need permission to take the kids away.

It is a sensible approach to have this permission in writing prior to making your holiday arrangements not only to have peace of mind but some border controls may ask to see this written (and translated) permission.

What if the other parent refuses to give permission or you have lost touch with them? It may be you strongly object to the other parent taking the child abroad (perhaps because you fear there is a risk the child will not be returned). The court can consider granting permission upon hearing an application by the parent for a specific issue order under the Children Act 1989. If permission is withdrawn near to the time of departure then such applications can, exceptionally, be heard on an urgent basis especially if any earlier permission given is subsequently withdrawn. If the other parent cannot be traced then an order to dispense with the requirement for permission would be an appropriate remedy.

It may be you have a child arrangements order which says the child resides with you. In which case you do not need the permission of the other parent if you are taking the child abroad for a period less than 28 days. Any longer, this could amount to child abduction without permission or a court order.

Before you book your holiday do consider getting that permission in writing first. Urgent, last minute court applications are expensive and emotionally exhausting and can certainly dampen the holiday spirit.

For further advice please contact our Family Law Team on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email

Get In touch