FAQs: Child matters over the summer school holiday.  

The summer holidays are almost here and many of us are ready for a well-earned break in the sun. Whilst this time of year brings a chance for families to be together on the beach, it is also a time that raises questions for separated parents, who can be sometimes unsure as to whether permission is needed to take their child or children on holiday.

It is sometimes forgotten that it is in fact a criminal offence for a person, to take or send a child out of the UK without consent from those holding parental responsibility, or without permission from the Court. This offence is classed as child abduction and if found guilty,it is possible that the perpetrator can be sent to prison, fined, or both.

Whether permission is needed and who needs to provide it, therefore depends on whether parental responsibility is held.

  • This of course leads to the question – What is parental responsibility and who has it?

A mother has parental responsibility automatically, but a father only automatically has parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother when the child is born or conceived, or if he later marries the child’s mother. Since 1st December 2003, unmarried fathers who are named on the birth certificate also automatically have parental responsibility.

Where an unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate, there are options available that he can pursue in order to acquire parental responsibility. Options include, mother and father signing a Parental Responsibility Agreement or applying to re-register the birth of the child. Alternatively, if mother is not in agreement, an application can be made to the Family Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Once established whether parental responsibility is held, it is possible to consider whether or not permission is needed.

  • Do I need permission to take my child on holiday in England / Wales?

Providing there is no Court order in place prohibiting this, then yes, it is possible to take your child or children anywhere in England and Wales without permission of another person who holds parental responsibility.

This is not the case however if the Court has been involved in matters previously and there is a Child Arrangements Order in place. If there is a Court order outlining when and how contact is to take place, all parties must comply with the order.  For example, if a parent usually has contact on a Friday and Saturday but you have plans to go on holiday within England and Wales for the week with your child or children, the permission of the other party will be needed as contact will not be able to happen as usual.  If an agreement cannot be reached, an application to the Court will be required. If the parent takes the child or children on holiday regardless, then the Court order will have been breached.

  • Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

Permission is needed from all those with parental responsibility, or permission from the Court, before you can take a child under the age of 16 out of England and Wales.

  • Do I need written content from the other person with parental responsibility to take my child abroad? 

Although it is advisable to obtain written consent, the law does not specify how the consent should be provided. The best option would be to attain a signed letter as this document can be used to prove that permission has been provided if difficulties are encountered at a later date, for example, at border and port controls.

It also might be worthwhile checking the requirements of proof that specific travel operators and border control agencies have to ensure your travel plans run smoothly.

  • Are there exceptions to permission being required?

The situation is different if you are named as the person that the child or children live with under a Child Arrangements Order, formally known as a Residence Order. In these circumstances, you may take your child or children out of England and Wales for up to 28 days without the consent of others with parental responsibility.

Similarly, if you hold a Special Guardianship Order, then you are able to take the child or children out of England and Wales for up to three months without the consent of others with parental responsibility.

The only exception to both of these is if there is a Prohibited Steps Order in place preventing you from removing the child or children from the jurisdiction.

Should grandparents and/or other family members want to take the child or children abroad, permission will be needed from both parents with parental responsibility and not just from one parent.

In almost all cases, communication is the best way to proceed. It is advisable to provide details of your proposed holiday (flight details, accommodation information and contact numbers) to the other party or parties with parental responsibility as far in advance as possible so that you have plenty of time to try and agree the arrangements and can try and avoid any last minute urgent Court applications.

Should you require further information or have a query in relation to your summer holiday plans, or your former partner’s summer holiday plans, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Written by: Gabriella Evans

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Published: 11/07/17