By Sammi Lindop
Family Law paralegal
Newcastle under Lyme
As the start of the Summer Holidays is in full swing, inevitably parents will be looking to take their children abroad. However, for single parents and separated families, issues can arise if the proper consent is not obtained. You might also be planning to take a grandchild or your child’s friend on holiday with you. Consent from everyone with parental responsibility is essential and it’s wise to have this consent in writing. If not, you might be committing the criminal offence of child abduction if you take the child abroad
Who has parental responsibility?
You will automatically have parental responsibility if you are the child’s birth mother. You should consult with anyone else with parental responsibility about issues concerning their welfare. If you are the child’s other parent, you will automatically have parental responsibility if you are married or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother. Fathers will have parental responsibility automatically if married to the mother at the birth of their child or if registered on the birth certificate.
Other parties may also have acquired parental responsibility if a parental responsibility agreement has been entered into, if they have obtained a court order for parental responsibility or have a Child Arrangements Order stating that the child/children live with you.
Do I need my ex-partner’s consent to take my children abroad on holiday?
It is vital you respect and communicate with the other parent about your plans before booking any trip abroad. You can read about the importance of co-parenting and effective communication following separation here
Before you take your child abroad, you should seek the permission of everyone with Parental Responsibility or an order from the Court. You must make sure you do this before booking a holiday to avoid unnecessary complications. Taking a child out of the Country without this permission might be child abduction.
If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place stating that the child/children live with you, then you can take a child abroad for a period of up to 28 days without obtaining permission from anyone else. The other parent must have the written consent of the parent who has the benefit of the “living with” order.
When is it a criminal offence to take a child abroad?
Section 1 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 (CAA 1984) makes it a criminal offence for a person connected with a child under the age of 16 to take or send a child out of the UK without the appropriate consent or a court order. A parent is a person connected with a child (CAA 1984, s 1(2)(a)). By CAA 1984, s 1(3), the appropriate consent in relation to a child includes the consent of the child’s father, if he has parental responsibility (CAA 1984, s 1(3)(a)(ii)).
CAA 1984, s 1(5) says that no offence is committed if the person taking the child out of the jurisdiction believes that the other person:
- has consented
- would consent if they were aware of all of the relevant circumstances or
- the other person has unreasonably refused to consent
If you are separated, you should take legal advice, particularly if you think consent has been unreasonably refused.
How do I obtain consent?
Unless you have a “living with order” in your favour, you must ask the other person with parental responsibility to provide a letter confirming their agreement to the child/children in question going with you on the holiday abroad. This letter should include:
- Full names and dates of birth of the children and who they live with,
- The full names and dates of birth of the parents and everyone with parental responsibility,
- The dates and times of travel and return to include flight numbers and accommodation details.
- The non-travelling parent’s contact details.
This letter should then be signed and dated, and a copy should be with you at the time of travel.
What documents do I need to take a child abroad?
Letters of consent are particularly helpful for separated or divorced parents. They may also be used in circumstances when grandparents or other non-parents are taking the children on a holiday. These letters may be requested upon entering or leaving another Country.
Remember that this letter does not guarantee travel and you should always check the rules and regulations of the airline that you are due to fly with and country that you are travelling to.
It may also be helpful to take additional documentation with you which proves your relationship with the child/children such as;
- Birth certificates
- A marriage certificate which would prove parental responsibility.
- A copy of a Final Order or Decree Absolute from divorce proceedings may also be useful to prove separation.
If you are travelling under a previous name or by your maiden name with your children of a different surname, having your marriage certificate alongside your passport should suffice and confirm who you are. If you have changed your name, then you should take a copy of your change of name deed.
What happens if you cannot gain consent from the non-travelling parent?
If one parent does not wish for the child/children to travel abroad, this can lead to conflicts such as that parent refusing to sign or approve a passport application which in turn can lead to more disputes and disagreements. Mediation could be of assistance (https://www.fmcstaffs.co.uk/mediation-in-stoke-on-trent/). It is always better to reach a voluntary agreement.
You might be committing a criminal offence if you take a child abroad without consent from the other parent with parental responsibility
If you cannot gain consent, then the only option would be to make an application to the Family Court for a Child Arrangements or Specific Issue Order.
Where do I get advice?
Our Family Law Team can advise you about whether you need consent, how to get consent and what to do if you can’t get consent.
Phone our office in Newcastle under Lyme for free initial advice on 01782 627589
About the author
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