Do I need permission to take my children abroad?

It would be fair to say that the holiday season is well upon us. For some parents arranging a family holiday abroad is as simple as selecting the dates and choosing the destination. However, for separated couples there is one factor which is of fundamental importance before they are even able to consider their holiday destination and that is; will the consent of the other parent be forthcoming to enable the removal of the children from the jurisdiction for the purpose of a family holiday.

As a specialist Family Law Solicitor, I am frequently asked, whether it is ok for one parent to take the children on a holiday abroad without securing the consent of the other parent. Aside the moral obligation for separated parents to discuss directly with one another their respective holiday plans, it really is beneficial for all party’s involved, in particular the children, if arrangements around holidays, and how the children’s time is to be divided between each parent during the school holidays can be agreed in plenty of time ahead of any planned holiday.

So what happens if one parent unilaterally takes the children abroad without the consent of the other party?

It doesn’t appear to be common knowledge that it is in fact a criminal offense for one parent to take a child out of England and Wales without the consent of every person who has Parental Responsibility unless permission of the Family Court has been given.

So what does the law say about separated parents taking their children abroad?

The current law states that each parent must secure the consent of every person who has Parental Responsibility of their child(ren) for them to take their child(ren) on holiday outside of England and Wales.

However, if there is a Child Arrangements Order in place, then the parent with whom the child(ren) reside is permitted to remove the children from England and Wales for a period of less than one month without needing to secure the consent of the other parent. However, permission must be sought for anything more than one month.

In the event one parent withholds their consent then it will be necessary, in the absence of an agreement and consent ultimately being given, for the parent wishing to take their child(ren) on holiday to make an application into court, ultimately for the court to decide whether the child(ren) should be allowed to go on holiday. This type of application is known as a Specific Issue application as the court is being asked to determine a ‘specific issue’. Applications of this nature are not usually concluded in a quick turnaround and so if you envisage difficulties in trying to secure the other parent’s consent to taking your child(ren) on holiday then it is advised that the topic is broached sooner rather than later, so if it is necessary to make an application for a Specific Issue order then you have plenty of time to do so.

Furthermore, it will be necessary for the parent seeking consent to provide as much information to the Judge as regards the intended destination, for example dates for the proposed holiday, the proposed flight details, including airports and flight times, and full details about the holiday destination, for example, holiday resort and name of hotel, together with any additional information which can be provided to the court (this list is not exhaustive).

Conversely, if one parent has unilaterally booked a holiday to take their child(ren) away without securing the consent of the other parent, and that parent is not in agreement to the said holiday then an application can be made into court to stop that parent from being able to take their children away. This is referred to as a ‘Prohibited Steps’ order as the application is intended to  prohibit that parent from taking their child(ren) on holiday. In both scenarios the court will always consider the welfare of the child(ren) in deciding whether a parent should be granted permission to take their children on holiday, or not as the case maybe.

Kelly Pougher, Associate Solicitor is an Expert in Family Law and is able to offer expert advice on Children Matters, including Child Arrangement Orders, Specific Issue applications and Prohibited Step applications.

Kelly is located at our Solihull Office and can be contacted on (0121) 624 4000 or kpougher@thursfields.co.uk

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