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Divorce law blog

Child Arrangements and Overseas Travel

14/05/2015   By: Sarah Eley

The summer holidays are fast approaching! What could be better than jetting off to enjoy some sun, sand and sea with your nearest and dearest? Unfortunately, in terms of child arrangements, this is not always as simple as it might seem. And depending on whether or not you have a child arrangements order, the rules you need to follow are different.

Where there is no child arrangements order

In order to lawfully take your child out of the UK (whether it’s for a day trip to France, two weeks in Florida or six weeks backpacking round Australia), you must obtain the written consent of every person with parental responsibility for your child. In most families, this will mean both the child’s mum and dad but you can read more about parental responsibility here.

A letter from each person with parental responsibility is usually enough to show you have their permission. You might be asked for the letter at a UK or foreign border or if there’s a dispute later on, so keep it with your child’s passport. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip. If your surname is different from your child’s, it also helps if you travel with evidence of your relationship with your child (e.g. their birth or adoption certificate).

If you cannot get those with parental responsibility for your child to agree to the holiday, you can apply to the Family Court for permission to take your child abroad. However it is important to remember that this may take a considerable amount of time and it will cost you money. If you are facing this situation, you can read more about the options open to you here.

Remember that taking a child abroad without the consent of those with parental responsibility or the Family Court’s permission is child abduction. This is a serious criminal offence which, if prosecuted, can result in a fine or even imprisonment.

Where there is a child arrangements order

Where there is a child arrangements order in place, different rules apply. If you are named as the person with whom your child lives, you are free to take your child out of the UK for up to 28 days. However, it is important to ensure that any contact arrangements set out in the order are still stuck to.

Should you be fortunate enough to be going on holiday for longer than 28 days, then you will need to get the written consent of every other person with parental responsibility for your child or, if consent is refused, ask the Family Court’s permission to travel abroad.

If you do end up needing to go to the Family Court, remember that the court will always act in the best interests of the child. Generally, judges will allow a parent to take their child on an overseas holiday. It is likely though that you will be asked to provide details of the holiday such as where you will be staying, the dates of departure and return, flight information and contact numbers. Where a judge has concerns that a child might not be returned to the UK after a holiday, they can put extra safeguards in place or, in some cases, they will refuse to give permission.

Whatever your situation, it is always best to try and sort out holiday arrangements well in advance (and before you book any tickets). This way you avoid any misunderstandings, problems with contact arrangements or accusations of child abduction – and, if you need extra help to broker an agreement, you have time to get that help. All of which will help make for a happier holiday for you and your child.

Sarah Eley

Trainee Solicitor

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