Divorced? Separated? You need permission to take your child abroad this summer

Divorced and separated parents who want to take their children abroad on holiday need permission from the other parent– or could be guilty of child abduction. Family law specialists from Browell Smith & Co Solicitors in Newcastle explain the law and what it means in practice.

As we move into holiday season, there’s one law that is worth taking note of. It’s not widely known but is completely true: if you are taking a child abroad, then you need permission from everyone who has parental responsibility for that child.

This may come as a surprise to separated and divorced parents, but it’s worth taking note of to avoid embarrassment – or much worse – at border control this summer.

Why do you need permission to take a child abroad?

The law might seem heavy-handed in this case, especially if a parent is innocently taking their child on holiday for a week, but it is designed to improve child safety and to prevent abduction.

The law gives border control increased powers to protect children who may not be travelling with the consent of both parents.

Failure to secure permission is technically child abduction, so it’s worth doing what’s needed to stay on the right side of the law.

What is the official advice?

The Government’s advice page about the issue says:

You might be asked at the UK or foreign border, for a letter to confirm permission is given by the others with Parental Responsibility or if there’s a dispute about taking a child abroad. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip.

It’s absolutely better to be safe than sorry – travelling through customs and border control with children can be a challenging enough experience at the best of times, so the last thing you want to happen is to complicate matters further by not having the correct paperwork.

In most cases, the child’s mother will have automatic parental responsibility, but they will still need permission of anybody else with parental responsibility before taking the child abroad.

What do I need?

A letter of permission – from the other parent or, if needed, a Court Order. If the travelling parent has a different surname to the child, then it may help to take a birth certificate, and a divorce/marriage certificate, with you as well.

How do I get court permission to take a child abroad?

If you need court permission to take a child abroad – ie if you cannot get consent from the other parent – then it might be best to secure the services of a family law solicitor without delay, who will be able to help ensure everything is in order.

The court will want to know the details of the trip, such as the date of departure, when and how you’re returning, and contact details of those people with parental responsibility who are staying in the UK.

It becomes more complicated if you are taking the child abroad for a longer trip, e.g. what education the child will get while they’re abroad.

My child is being taken out of the country without my consent

If you believe a child for whom you have responsibility is being taken out of the country – or is at risk of being taken out the country – then you should call the police immediately.

If the child has already been removed from the country, then the Government gives advice about the first steps you can take to recover the child. You should also speak to a solicitor as quickly as possible – at Browell Smith & Co we have many years’ experience of dealing with all aspects of family law, and we can advise on the best course of action.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this blog or need advice on this subject, please contact Browell Smith & Co.

Contact our expert team today to arrange an appointment in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively by calling 0800 107 3000, to discuss your particular requirements.


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