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Separated Parents – what to do when you want to take your child on holiday

Published on 10 January 2020 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett

At the start of a New Year many families are eager to begin to plan holidays abroad with their children. When parents separate, they can often find it difficult to agree on holiday arrangements. This can lead to delays or missing out completely on proposed holidays. Knowing the law in this area can help resolve issues around holiday contact.

What do you need to know?

A parent cannot take a child abroad without the consent of every other person who has parental responsibility for that child, this is usually just the other parent. In most cases, a signed letter containing the other parent’s contact details and consent to the holiday will be sufficient. It is also advisable that if your child has a different surname to you that you also take along the child’s birth certificate and a marriage certificate or copy of Decree Absolute, if applicable. Having these documents with you may help avoid delays when entering a different country, but you should check the specific requirements of your holiday destination before you travel.

Following separation, it can be difficult for parents to agree on holiday arrangements and this can lead to one parent withholding consent to the child travelling abroad. Where this occurs, an application can be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order to deal with the proposed holiday. Given that Court proceedings can take some months to finalise, an early application is needed to allow sufficient court time to deal with the issue prior to the proposed holiday.

In cases where a parent already has a Child Arrangements Order in place, which provides that the child ‘lives with’ them, that parent may take their child abroad for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent. This is of course provided that this duration of holiday would not be in breach of any other provision within the Order and there is no specific restriction on travel.

In the absence of a ‘lives with’ Order, it is vital that the parent proposing the holiday either has the permission of the other parent to take the child abroad or permission of the Court. Taking a child abroad without the consent of the other parent or permission of the Court could constitute Child Abduction, which is a criminal offence in England and Wales.

Who keeps the passport?

If there is no Child Arrangements Order in place confirming where the passport for the child should be kept, it is usual for the passport to remain with the primary carer. It is advisable to agree to a notice period to provide the other party with details for a proposed holiday so that the passport can be with the parent who is taking the child abroad for sufficient time.

Again, if an agreement cannot be reached in relation to where the child’s passport is held and this prevents a parent from taking the child abroad, this can be determined by applying to the Court for a Specific Issue Order under the Children Act 1989.

What you can do now

If your holiday plans this year are still in their infancy, we recommend that you consult the other parent at an early stage with details of your proposed holiday to try to reach an agreement.  If the other parent will not provide their consent and Court proceedings are necessary, it is advisable to get matters underway as soon as possible to avoid the disappointment of cancelling the holiday or travelling without the child.

If you have any questions about going abroad with your child and you are struggling to agree on matters with your ex-partner, please do contact our specialist Family Solicitors by completing our contact us form here.

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