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/ 04 Jul 2024

Do I need to get the other parent’s consent to take our child on holiday?

With schools breaking up for the long summer holidays this month, for separated parents, the question as to whether consent from the other parent is needed to take a child on holiday is an important one.

Sophie Sibley

Solicitor

Family & Divorce

View profile

The legal position as to whether or not you need the other parent’s consent to take your child on holiday will depend on whether or not there is a court order in place determining with whom the child lives with. If no such order exists, it will depend on who else has parental responsibility for your child and where you are taking your child on holiday.

Can you take your child on holiday if you have a court order in place?

If you have a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) which states the child lives with you, then the general position is you can take your child out of the jurisdiction for up to a month without the other parent’s consent. Where there is a CAO that states the child is to live with both parents (known as a shared care CAO), then either parent can take the child abroad for up to a month without the other parent’s consent.

However if the period you would be away would interrupt the other parent’s court ordered time with the child then you would need their agreement to vary this or you could be in breach of this part of the order. This does not apply if you are taking them away during your own ordered time, but it is always recommended that you inform the other parent of any holiday as a matter of courtesy and to promote good communication and trust.

It is possible for a CAO to contain a prohibited steps clause in which you are specifically prevented from travelling abroad with the child. You should carefully check the provisions of any court order to make sure there are no such restrictions.

Can you take your child on holiday if you do not have a court order in place?

In this case, you must get permission from anyone with parental responsibility to take a child abroad for any period of time. In most cases, this would just be your co-parent, but if anyone else has parental responsibility for the child, their permission would also need to be obtained.

Parental responsibility is the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a person has in respect of their child. A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility, as do fathers who are married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the child’s birth (and this is not lost if they are later divorced or the civil partnership dissolved). Fathers who are not married to or in a civil partnership with the mother will only have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate, enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or obtain a parental responsibility order from the court.

It is always advisable to obtain the other parent’s consent in writing (for instance by text or email), which includes details of the holiday, the child’s name, date of birth and passport number, your details and the details of the other parent. If you have a different name from your child, you may benefit from bringing the child’s birth certificate and evidence of your name change (for example, a final divorce order or deed poll). You should also make arrangements for the children’s passports to be handed over in good time if the other parent is holding them to prevent any last-minute hiccups.

Another recommendation is to check whether the country you are travelling to has any additional specific requirements you will need to comply with about the movement of the children. For example, some countries have an absolute requirement of a formal letter of authority from the non-travelling parent granting permission for the trip, or even a Parent Consent Affidavit. Check with the relevant embassy about this ahead of time if you are unsure, so as to prevent problems at the foreign border on arrival or on your journey home.

If the other parent refuses to give their consent for the holiday, you cannot remove your child from the jurisdiction otherwise you will be committing the offence of child abduction under the Child Abduction Act which is punishable by a fine or prison. For more on child abduction take a look at our blog on UK Child Abductions Laws: knowing your rights and the actions you can take. 

Where consent is refused, you may need to apply to the court for permission to remove the child from the jurisdiction. This type of order is called a Specific Issue Order and in deciding whether to grant it, the court will need to consider whether the holiday is in the best interests of the child. The usual first step before a court application is mediation, which is a voluntary collaborative process in which the mediator will facilitate discussions and try to help you reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is not always suitable in which case you might need to go straight to a court application. If you are considering a court application and want to know if mediation is suitable, our solicitors would be happy to help you.

Where you are taking your child on holiday within England and Wales, you do not need to obtain the consent of the other parent because you are staying within the jurisdiction. Be aware that if you are taking your child on holiday to Northern Ireland or Scotland, this counts as a holiday out of the jurisdiction and therefore you should obtain consent from the other parent.

General considerations for taking your child abroad

Where possible, it is advisable to maintain open communication with the other parent and inform them of your intention to take your child on holiday, even if not legally required, as you may need to get agreement to vary their agreed time with the child.

Consideration and a collaborative approach will usually be the most constructive way to ensuring your holiday plans run smoothly. For instance, if the other parent is going to miss out on time with the child, you can offer additional time on the child’s return to make up for this or indirect contact such as a FaceTime call or telephone call. This will allow your child to share their experience with the absent parent and is also likely to make your co-parent feel less excluded, putting them at ease during the break.

How can our family lawyers help you?

Our family team specialises in all private children matters and can provide you with advice about holiday arrangements for your child as a separated parent, or if you need assistance with taking your child on holiday or having them returned following a holiday, please contact Hanne & Co on 020 7228 0117 to speak to a member of the Family Department or submit an enquiry via the form below.

 

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If you have a query for our family team, contact one of our lawyers by filling out the form below or call us on +44 (0) 207 228 0017.

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