Five things you need to know if you are separated and want to take your children on a holiday abroad
April 7, 2021
With many of us eager to go on holiday abroad as soon as circumstances permit us, Eleni Habib answers some commonly asked questions about separated parents taking their children abroad.
Following the separation from the mother/father of my children, it was decided that our children reside with me. Is it necessary for me to take permission from my ex-partner to take our child(ren) abroad?
Regardless of whether the children reside with you only or there is a shared care arrangement between both parents, it is highly recommended and best practice to obtain permission from the other parent before taking children abroad. Even if both parents are amicable, it is safer to have explicit and clear consent from the other parent in order to avoid any abduction concerns.
However, if there is a Child Arrangements Order in place that provides that the children shall live with you, this will permit the children to be taken abroad for no longer than one month without the other parent’s permission. Even in these circumstances, it is still good practice to notify the other parent.
Following the separation from the mother/father of my children, it was decided that the children do not reside with me. What should I do if I want to take my children on holiday abroad?
As with the above scenario, the first action to take would be to discuss the proposed holiday arrangements with your former partner and obtain their consent to you taking the child(ren) abroad. If permission is not given, the next step might be to try to mediate with the other parent. It can sometimes help the other parent if they have details of the trip, such as the reason for traveling, dates of travel, and where you and the children will be staying.
Do I have to mediate first or should I instruct a solicitor?
Mediation is a useful way for parties to discuss arrangements that are difficult to agree on their own without help from a neutral third party. If you are able to communicate with the other parent, you might consider mediation first with the other parent. If the other parent refuses to engage in mediation or no agreement is reached, then you may wish to apply for a Specific Issue Order relating to the issue of taking the children on holiday abroad. As the name suggests, this type of order can be made about any specific issue that may arise. Court applications are usually the last resort, and the Court will need confirmation that mediation has been attempted prior to making any application.
What if mediation is not an option for me? Are there any exemptions?
There are some exceptions to the rule as mediation is not practical in all circumstances. You may be exempt from the mediation requirement if, for example:
- You cannot contact the other parent because of domestic abuse inflicted by them upon you;
- The matter is urgent and will put you and/or the children at risk of harm if not dealt with urgently;
- You do not have the contact details of the other parent, preventing you from organising mediation;
- The other parent is in prison or has bail conditions that prohibit contact with you.
There are other exemptions to this requirement, so it is recommended that you seek legal advice if you have any questions.
What should I do if my children are going or have gone abroad without my permission? Can anything be done?
With advanced knowledge of the holiday, it might be possible to ask the court to make an order preventing the child from being taken abroad, especially where there are real concerns about the child(ren)’s welfare. However, sometimes a parent will decide to just take the child(ren) on holiday abroad without consulting with the other parent. Whilst this might, in certain circumstances, be a potential criminal offence of child abduction, it is less likely to be an issue if the child returns safe and well after their holiday. However, if you have concerns that this might not be a holiday and your children may be abducted overseas by the other parent or another family member, it is crucial to speak to the police as soon as possible. The police have the ability to make a ‘Port Alert’ where there is a real and imminent danger that the children will be removed from England and Wales within 24-48 hours. The ‘Port Alert’ will try to prevent the children from leaving and will remain in force for 28 days. The Family Court can also make orders which will assist with the recovery of the children. It is very important to seek legal advice as soon as possible in these circumstances.
Contact us on 03330 150 150 to speak to one of our experienced family solicitors if you would like any assistance with child arrangements, child abduction or about any other family matters including divorce and financial proceedings, cohabitation, care proceedings and many more.