Do I need the consent of my ex to take our children on holiday?
With the holiday season upon us Bradford based, Family Law Solicitor Harjit Rait, is frequently asked if the consent of ex-partners is required to take children on holiday. Parents are not certain what the requirements are, particularly if the children reside with them.
The simple answer is – YES, the consent of all holders of Parental Responsibility, which is usually both the parents of the child/children is required.
If however you have a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order confirming that the child/children reside with you, you can take the child/children out of the UK for up to 28 days without the consent of all holders of Parental Responsibility.
It is still however good practice to obtain such consent, even though it is not technically needed, to avoid potential last minute difficulties, for example, other parent applying to the Court to prevent you from going on holiday as they may still object to the holiday even though technically you do not need their consent.
In 2003, the law changed in England & Wales to provide unmarried fathers with Parental Responsibility for their children if they were named on the birth certificate. Prior to 2003, father’s obtained Parental Responsibility of they were married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or subsequently, entered into a Parental Responsibility Agreement or had a Court Order. Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility for the child. Other parents and parties may also have Parental Responsibility namely two female parents, step parents (who have married or entered into a Civil Partnership with parent with Parental Responsibility) or holders of Child Arrangements Orders confirming the child/children live with them.
Parental Responsibility is defined as “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”. Parents (as holders of Parental Responsibility) have a duty to consult each other and agree important decisions regarding their children’s lives such as which school they are to attend, planned non routine medical or dental treatment, change of surname, relocation to name a few.
Day to day decisions such as what the children are to wear, which activities they are to attend, routine discipline, personal care for the child can be determined by the parent caring for the child without consultation of the other parent with parental responsibility.
Consent to take the children on holiday falls somewhere between the two.
If more than one parent holds Parental Responsibility for the child, it is the duty of the parent seeking to go on holiday with the child/children to notify the other parent and obtain their consent to take the children abroad otherwise technically, the parent travelling without the consent of the other parent with Parental Responsibility may commit the offence of child abduction which is defined as taking or sending the child/children out of the UK without the appropriate consent of:
- The child’s mother
- The child’s father if he has Parental Responsibility
- Any guardian of the child
- Any person named in a Court Order with whom the child is to live
If a parent refuses to provide consent, then it will be necessary to apply to the Court for a Specific Issue Order to allow you to travel with your child abroad to ensure that you are not charged with child abduction or left at the airport.
If you are the parent who has concerns regarding your child going on holiday and are concerned that the other parent may take the children on holiday without your consent, you could apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the children going on holiday.
Whenever the Court falls to determine the issue, the Court’s main concern is the welfare of the child/children and if you are opposing a holiday, which is generally regarded as something that will benefit the child/children, you need to have cogent reasons for doing so i.e. you are concerned about your child/children’s safety and wellbeing or concerned the child/children may not be returned to your care.
Early planning is vital to ensure unnecessary stress in the run up to the proposed holiday and potential disappointment is avoided.
To ensure there are no difficulties as outlined above, the advice is to provide the other parent/holder of Parental Responsibility with all the details of the holiday to include dates of travel and destination and seek their consent in writing to the same.
Ensure that you take such correspondence with you when travelling, it could be as vital as your passport and ticket!
Harjit can assist in resolving financial matters arising from divorce or separation in a firm, pragmatic and cost effective manner and is a member of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Panel and a member of Resolution.