Travelling outside the UK as a separated parent – what you need to know

12th July 2022

Many of us are thinking about our holidays. Travelling abroad is now firmly back on the agenda as the world is opening up again. If you are travelling abroad with your child and are a separated parent, there may be potential obstacles that you are not aware of. It is therefore advisable that you get everything in place in good time prior to travelling.

Am I permitted to travel abroad with my child?

The answer to this is vital as you may unwittingly be committing a criminal offence of child abduction if you don’t have the relevant permission. If both parents have parental responsibility and there is no ‘live with’ child arrangements order in place, you must seek the other parent’s consent before travelling with them outside 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 the written consent with your other travel documents.

If you have a ‘live with’ child arrangements order, you can take your child outside the UK without the consent of the other parent for up to one month. Do 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, to enable them to properly consider matters you may need to provide a bit more information about your travel plans, such as destination and duration of stay. If you don’t require the other parent’s consent to travel abroad it is still good practice to provide more detail.

This may provide reassurance, particularly if they are nervous about their child travelling abroad. It may prevent them from making a ‘prohibited steps application’ – an order which can stop someone from exercising elements of their parental responsibility – to the court to try and stop you if they are concerned about the travel.

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. It is advisable to take their birth certificate and any other document proving a change of surname, like a change of name deed or final divorce order / decree absolute, if that’s relevant to you. You may need to be able to prove the link with your child. Also, prepare your child by letting them know that 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 from going. 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.

In those instances, you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order, which will enable the court to consider matters. The court would only prevent travel in certain circumstances and often it depends on the holiday destination. 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. It can prevent a plethora of misunderstandings and potential applications to the court.

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