12 June 2015

What happens when separated parents can’t agree on holidays?

School summer holidays are on the horizon and for some that will include occasions when separated parents cannot agree on whether or when the children can go on holiday with each parent.

If the parties cannot agree, then the court has the ability to make orders, either via a Child Arrangements Order or via a Specific Issue Order, to set out what is in the children’s best interests when it comes to going on holiday with their parents.

Sometimes the issue is one of dates, with the resident parent possibly not allowing the non-resident parent to have the dates requested. The court may well find a compromise on this, but if the father, for instance, has booked up dates and the mother will not allow those dates, then so long as enough notice has been given and there is no good reason why the dates should not be agreed, then the court will be likely to order them.

Even if the dates can be agreed, then a little-known fact in children’s law is that you need the permission of everyone who holds parental responsibility for a child to be taken out of the UK, otherwise an offence of child abduction has been committed.

There is one proviso, however; if one party holds a Child Arrangements Order, specifying that a child lives with them (previously a Residence Order), then they are allowed to take a child out of the UK for up to 28 days without the permission of the other party with parental responsibility. If no-one has been to court, then one parent would still need the permission of the other party or a Specific Issue Order, allowing for a holiday.

The court will always look at what is in the child’s best interest, and if there is no risk of the child being permanently removed from the jurisdiction, and the holiday destination is appropriate, the court is likely to consider that holidays abroad are in a child’s best interests. The question of which holiday destination is appropriate will depend not only on the safety of the location, but also the age of the child and the length of stay; generally, the younger the child, the shorter the trip, seems to be the rule.

In order to avoid conflicts and ensure a really happy holiday for both parent and child (and it is worth remembering how many of our own lasting memories come from holidays abroad), make sure you take proper professional advice.

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About the Author
Mat Waddington, Partner
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