I am separated or divorced – do I need permission from the other parent to take my child abroad?

With the summer holidays looming a lot of families are planning to escape the UK for sunnier climes.  If you are divorced/separated, taking a child abroad might not be as straightforward as booking your holiday.  A question that we are often asked is “do I need permission from the other parent to take my child on a foreign holiday?”.  Unfortunately the answer is not so obvious, and if not thought through, the consequences can be severe.

Taking legal advice from a trusted solicitor is key. Kelly Bruton, solicitor and head of the family law department at Donnelly & Elliott Solicitors answers your questions.

Do I require permission from the other parent to take a child abroad?

Yes, you must obtain permission from everyone with parental responsibility for the child or from a court before taking a child abroad.  You automatically have parental responsibility if you’re the child’s mother but you still need the permission from the child’s father before you take the child abroad.  A father usually has parental responsibility if he either married the child’s mother or is named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003.  You may also need permission from anyone else who has parental responsibility e.g. a guardian.  Taking a child abroad without permission is child abduction!

You can take a child abroad for up to 28 days without getting permission if you have a Child Arrangements Order.  That order must state that the child is to live with you and there must be no other court order that prohibits you from taking the child abroad.

How do I show that I have permission to take a child abroad?

A letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child is usually enough to show you’ve got permission to take them abroad.  You might be asked for the letter at a UK or foreign border.  The letter should include the other person’s contact details and information about the trip.

It also helps if you have the following documents:-

  • a birth or adoption certificate – to evidence of your relationship with the child; and/or
  • a divorce or marriage certificate – if your surname is different to your child.

What can I do if the person with parental responsibility refuses to consent to the child going abroad?

You’ll need to apply to the court for permission to take a child abroad if you haven’t got permission from the child’s father/mother (or other people with parental responsibility).  You must give details of the trip and contact details of people with parental responsibility staying in the UK.

What if I want to take my child abroad for a longer trip?

If you are planning a longer trip, you must give more information including, for example, what education the child will get while they’re abroad and how you will maintain contact between the child and the child’s father/mother or guardian.

What if there is a dispute?

If necessary, your solicitor will be able to make an urgent application to the court to enable the child to travel.  Your solicitor will also be able to advise you on alternative methods to resolve any dispute that do not involve the court.  Whatever method of dispute resolution is chosen, it is essential to seek specialist legal advice at the outset and before you make any commitments.

At Donnelly & Elliott our Family Law and Child Law Solicitors have the experience and expertise to guide you through the process, so that you can have a happy (and relaxing) summer holiday.  Call a member of our team today for your initial consultation 02392 505 500.


About the Author

Kelly Bruton is a Solicitor and head of the family law department at Donnelly & Elliott Limited, Solicitors in Gosport.  She has over nine years’ experience in dealing with family law matters.  Kelly is a member of Resolution which means that she is trained and encouraged to deal with family law disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive way.  Kelly also specialises in matters relating to children law.  In recognition of her high level of knowledge, experience and expertise in this area she has been awarded the Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation.