Do I need permission from my former partner to take my child abroad?

18 Feb 2021

You may presume as a parent that you are free to take your child out of the country at your own discretion, but is that really the case? Dawn Gore explains more.

“Police stop plane on Heathrow tarmac to arrest child abduction suspect” shouted the headlines from The Guardian and other media outlets over the weekend. Over-dramatic? Certainly not for the mother of the child who had been removed from her care without her permission and certainly not for the police or the Courts who are likely now to deal with this attempted abduction.

Little information has been given about this particular case, but as the man who took the little girl is known to her, one can assume that he is her father and that he was attempting to leave the country with her.

The Child Abduction Act 1984 states that it is an offence to remove a child under the age of 16 from the country without the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the Court’s permission. This includes your own children. Therefore, if you wish to take your child out of the country for any purpose and for any length of time, you must ensure you have permission to do so from the other parent. If the other parent refuses to give you permission, you would have to make an application to the Court for an order giving you permission to take the child abroad.

There are certain exceptions to the requirement to obtain consent. The Children Act 1989 enables an adult who has the benefit of a child arrangements order which states that the child lives with them to temporarily remove the child from the country for a period of less than one month without securing consent from the other parent. This means that if you have an order which states your child lives with you, you can take them out of the country for a holiday without seeking the other parent’s agreement. However, that parent is still entitled to know that their child is being taken abroad and as a matter of courtesy, should be informed of the arrangements. The proposed holiday may have an impact upon the time that the child would ordinarily spend with the other parent and alternative arrangements should also therefore be considered as to whether that time can be made up.

The other parent also still has the ability to object to their child being taken abroad and if an agreement cannot be reached, may consider it necessary to make an application to the Court for an order preventing you from taking them away for that planned trip. In determining the application, the Court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare and if there is a concern that the removal is intended to be permanent or perhaps that the destination is not safe, the Court may make an order prohibiting you from removing the child.

Fortunately for this little girl, the police acted without delay and were able to trace her whereabouts and board the plane which was taxiing for take-off to Bucharest within an hour of the report being received. The little girl was returned to her mother and the man arrested and released on bail pending further investigation. Whilst this may seem like a happy ending, the experience is likely to have been extremely traumatic for all those involved and no doubt will be the subject of further litigation in the Courts.

If you require advice about taking your child abroad, our team of family lawyers can help. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation on 0800 2800 421 or get in touch here.

Author

Dawn Gore

Associate (Senior Paralegal)