The holidays will soon be upon us and many separated parents will be unclear what they are permitted to do when it comes to taking their children on holiday abroad.
In most cases the parents can agree on holiday arrangements and no problem arises, but in cases where parents are constantly battling with each other about issues relating to their children, a holiday abroad may not be plain sailing.
If the parents were married when their children were born, or if unmarried, the father is named on the birth certificate, they both have Parental Responsibility for them. Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children Act as being “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. When two people with PR cannot agree on how to exercise their responsibilities then one parent can apply to the court who can make orders relating to the child.
Where there are no orders in place then a parent (who is separated from the child’s other parent with Parental Responsibility) should only take the child abroad with the consent of the other parent or with permission of the court. The person proposing the trip could be prevented from going by the other parent obtaining a prohibited steps or specific issues order forbidding the child being taken abroad.
Under the Child Abduction Act it is also a criminal offence to take a child abroad if the permission of the other parent has not been obtained. It is however a defence under this Act if the parent has unreasonably refused to consent.
Where there is a child arrangements order regulating who the child shall live with in place then the situation is different. The parent stated in the order as the person with whom the child is to live, can take the child out of the UK for a period of up to a month without consent.
The practical problem often encountered is where consent to a holiday is required but not given therefore making an application to court necessary, and by the time the court has determined the matter the holiday period has passed. Our courts are currently very stretched and significant delays can be expected.
It is always better to do everything possible to try and agree holiday arrangements with the other parent and mediation can help achieve this. Often, when parents are reminded and focussed on the most important issue, which is what is best for their child, they can leave aside their feelings towards their ex-partner and agree arrangements without the need for court intervention.
This article originally appeared in Surrey Magazine’s Summer Issue – July 2019
If you would like to find out more about the issues raised in this article or need advice concerning family and divorce matters more widely, please contact Louise or another member of our expert team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7631 4141.