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Travelling Abroad with a Child

Marie Curie

"Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." 

At McAlister Family Law, our specialist children team have significant experience in representing parents who:

  • Want to oppose the other parent travelling abroad
  • Are concerned that the other parent will not provide consent to travel
  • Have booked a holiday and the other parent is refusing to provide the passports
  • Are concerned that their children will not be returned following a holiday.

Consent to travel

Before travelling abroad with a child of the family you should get the agreement of every carer/parent for the child or obtain permission from a court if not. Our recommendation would be to obtain the consent in writing before the holiday is booked. A simple email expressing a desire to take the children on holiday together with confirmation of dates and location would be sufficient. If the other parent responds in writing confirming consent, then proceed to book the holiday.

If consent to travel is being refused

It is important to note that if a child is removed from the parent/ carer with parental responsibility then the parent/ carer removing the child could be found guilty of child abduction which is a criminal offence. 

If the travel is intended for the purpose of an ordinary holiday to a popular destination, the Court will be reluctant to uphold the objections of a parent seeking to prevent such a holiday taking place, which it would likely consider to be in a child’s best interests. However the Court may, and can, prevent such a trip if it is felt that the child’s welfare is at risk by travel to what might be deemed an unsafe destination, or by a parent who does not usually spend a substantial period of time whilst in the United Kingdom.

It is important to note that if a child is removed from the United Kingdom without permission of the other parent/carer with Parental Responsibility, then the parent/carer removing the child could be found guilty of child abduction and therefore obtain a criminal record, although this would not apply to a parent who has a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live and takes or sends the child out of the United Kingdom for a period of less than one month.

It is important to double check the arrangements via their embassy or consular office for the country to which you intend to travel, as each may have different and more stringent requirements to prove that you have permission to travel with a child from the other parent. In fact, the age of who is considered a child may also differ from country to country. It could be an expensive lesson to learn if you are prevented from entering a country despite having paid for your holiday there and obtained what you thought was sufficient permission from the other parent. If you are booking with a travel agent, they should be able to advise regarding specific requirements of the destination country.

For the avoidance of any doubt a letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child may usually be enough to show you’ve got permission to take them abroad which should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip and might be asked for at the border when leaving the United Kingdom or entering a foreign country. Also, evidence of your relationship with the child such as a birth certificate and any document proving your marriage and/or divorce, if applicable, might also be useful especially if your child has a different surname from you.

Any letter should clearly set out the arrangements for the holiday/trip including the dates of travel to and from any destination, location of accommodation whilst away and clear information relating to the parent/care remaining at home in the United Kingdom including their own passport details if possible. Clearly, the more information available the better and if necessary obtain appropriate forms for from the destination country which may need completion and/or certification from a lawyer before travel.

Next steps

It is important to get advice as soon as possible and before you commit to a trip or book any arrangements, particularly if the permission of the other parent is in doubt so a decision can be made whether an early application to court is required.

Contact Us

For further information contact a member of the McAlister Family Law specialist children team today.

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