HCR Law Events

13 December 2023

Travelling abroad as a separated parent

As we approach the new year, many of us are thinking about much needed sunshine and holiday plans. If you are a separated parent and are considering travelling abroad with your child, you may have some obstacles. It is advisable that you get organised in good time prior to travelling and if in any doubt, seek advice from a family solicitor.

Do I need permission to travel abroad with my child?

If you don’t have the relevant permission you may unwittingly be committing a criminal offence of child abduction. If both parents have parental responsibility and there is no ‘lives with’ child arrangements order in place, you should seek the other parent’s consent before travelling with them outside of the UK.

The consent should be clear, unequivocal and in writing. It is also recommended that you obtain a copy of the other parent’s passport and that you carry this, along with their written consent – keep them with your other travel documents.

If you have a ‘lives with’ child arrangements order, you can take your child outside the UK without the consent of the other parent for less than one month. Take a copy of the court order with you on your travels.

Do I have to provide details of the holiday to the other parent?

If you require the other parent’s consent to travel outside the UK you may need to provide more information about your travel plans, such as destination, flight details and duration of stay. If you don’t require the other parent’s consent to travel abroad it is still good practice to provide detail. This will provide reassurance to the other parent, particularly if they are nervous about your child travelling abroad. Think about when your child will be able to call or video message them whilst away.

Can having a different surname to my child cause problems at the airport?

You may have changed your surname name after separation, or your child may have always had a different surname to you. If this is the case, take their birth certificate and any other documents proving a change of surname, like a change of name deed or final divorce order, with you in your travel documents. You may need to be able to prove the link with your child. Also, if old enough, prepare your child by letting them know they may be asked questions by immigration officials.

Can I prevent my child’s other parent from taking them on holiday abroad?

You need to question your motive for trying to prevent them. Generally speaking, it is considered a positive experience for your child to be able to go on holiday. You should only consider trying to prevent travel if there is evidence to suggest your child may be at risk of not being returned, or the country they are travelling to is considered unsafe, for example.

In such instances, you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps – an order which can stop someone from exercising one or more elements of their parental responsibility – to try and prevent travel. The court would only do this in certain circumstances and often it depends on the holiday destination and reason for travel. If the court did permit travel, they can put safeguards and conditions in place to assist with the safe return of your child.

As with most issues relating to your child, communication with the other parent is usually the best course of action. Mediation could be a good option if you are struggling with communication.

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About the Author
Sally Robinson, Partner, Head of Family, Central England

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