Can I take my child away for a Summer holiday after divorce or separation?

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With the school summer holidays fast approaching and the weather turning warmer, parents’ thoughts may be turning to planning holidays with their children. But what happens after a divorce or separation? Can either parent take the children abroad without the other parent’s permission?

Before rushing to book those flights or stock up on sun cream, it is vital that you are fully aware of the law surrounding parents’ legal ability to take their children out of the country. Failure to do so, can lead to court action and unnecessary hostilities between parents, whose interests are clearly focussed on creating joyful summer memories for themselves and their children.

The first consideration is: do you have parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is automatically granted to the birth mother upon the birth of the child.

The other parent automatically gains parental responsibility, if they are married to the birth mother at the time of the birth, or named on the birth certificate.

The next point to consider is: whether there is a child arrangements order in place?

A child arrangements order is granted after a court hearing and determines who the child lives with and spends time with.

If there is a child arrangements order, then the parent with the benefit of the ‘lives with’ order, can take the child abroad for a maximum of 28 days without the other parent’s permission. However, the remaining parent will need the written permission of the parent with the benefit of the ‘lives with’ order before they are permitted to take the child out of the UK.

If there is no child arrangements order in place, both parents will require the written permission of the other parent before they take the child out of the UK.

Failure to obtain the other parent’s permission where necessary, can result in your being refused to leave the country or being refused entry to your chosen destination. This is the last thing any parent would want to face after a long flight with an excited child. Not to mention the risk of being accused of child abduction.

The simple message is, before booking that summer holiday in the sun, be certain that you have the other parent’s written permission.  If you have any doubt as to whether that permission is needed, contact a solicitor to ensure that you are not breaching any existing court order or risking the entire holiday itself being prevented from taking place at all.

Alternatively, if you are the parent with a ‘lives with’ order and you have concerns about the other parent taking your child abroad and not returning them, there are legal steps that can be taken in order to prevent this. This would require an application to the court for a prohibited steps order, preventing the child from being removed from the UK.

If you have any doubts about your parental responsibility and how this affects your ability to take your child on holiday, please do not hesitate to contact the family team at Chubb Bulleid and we will be happy to advise you.