• 3 min read

Taking your child on a winter holiday – do you have parental consent?


Most separated parents don’t realise it is a criminal offence to take a child out of the country without having written consent of the other parent or the Court’s permission to do so.

After last year’s plans for Christmas were shelved due to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are hoping to make this year’s festivities even more special for their children. This might include taking a trip abroad over Christmas or the New Year.

What most separated parents do not realise however, is that it is a criminal offence to take a child out of the country, for any period of time, without having first obtained the written consent of the other parent or the Court’s permission to do so. The only exception to this is if the parent seeking to take the children abroad already has the benefit of an order which states that the children live with them. In those circumstances, that parent is able to remove the children from the Country for up to one month without first having to obtain the other parent’s consent.

That is not to say however, that the other parent should not be consulted. Both parents have a right to know if their children are being taken out of the country and in most circumstances, the holiday is likely to have an impact on the time that the children would otherwise be spending with the other parent.

Even when a “live with” order exists, it remains open to either parent to object to a proposed trip abroad if there are concerns for the children’s welfare were they to travel abroad. This may particularly be the case now due to the ongoing pandemic. Parents will need to liaise as to the level of risk in the destination country and the need for COVID testing to be undertaken before and after flying, both in the UK and in the destination country. Discussions must take place as to contingency plans in the event of a positive test result and the need to self-isolate; healthcare provision in the destination country if someone becomes unwell and whether that will be covered by insurance, together with arrangements should that country go into lockdown.

Before booking the holiday it is also important to check the requirements of the border agency of the destination country. Some border agencies (for example South Africa) require the non-travelling parent to provide a sworn affidavit confirming their consent to the children travelling without them.  This may require the assistance of lawyers to prepare the appropriate documentation.

It is imperative therefore that before any holidays are booked and paid for, the proposed trip is discussed between the parents; the necessary written consent and any other required documentation obtained where required and agreement reached as to how to deal with the pre and post travel requirements.

Any objections or concerns with reference to the proposed trip should be fully set out so that these can be considered and, where possible, dealt with. In many circumstances, the provision of full details of the holiday including the name, address and telephone number for the accommodation; flight or ferry details and emergency contact information for the parents wishing to take the children on the holiday will go some way to alleviate concerns. Additional contingency planning should also be shared and agreed.

If written consent is still not forthcoming, solicitors or mediators can assist in identifying the issues and attempt to resolve them for the benefit of the family. Ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached, consideration may need to be given to an application to Court for a specific issue order enabling the parent to take the children abroad for a holiday, or a prohibited steps order, seeking to prevent the children from being removed.

If you would like to speak to a solicitor about divorce, please get in touch with Trethowans’ Family team today on 0800 2800 421 or contact us here.

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