Advice for divorced parents taking their children on holiday this summer

Photo credit: altanaka, Shutterstock
Did you know that divorced or separated parents need permission from the other partner to take their children abroad?

A little-known UK law means it’s a legal requirement for divorced or separated parents to get written permission from their estranged partner if they wish to take children overseas. Failure to do so could cause holiday-wrecking delays at passport control – or even lead to child abduction charges.

In addition, while we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit at the time of writing, there is a chance that British citizens’ passports and paperwork will be scrutinised more closely than usual as they enter the EU this summer and beyond.

As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and by following this simple guide you can stay on the right side of the law this summer.

Why do you need permission to take a child abroad?

Simply put, the law is designed to improve child safety and to prevent abduction, even if it’s an inconvenience to the countless parents who are taking their children on vacation.

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 official advice warns that you might be asked at the UK or foreign border for a letter to confirm permission is given by anyone else with Parental Responsibility. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip.

It’s a precaution that’s worth taking, even if you’ve travelled in the past without any issues. Any parent who has travelled through airport security checks with young children will tell you how stressful it can be: 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 the other parent is refusing to give consent, it might become a court issue. In this case, we’d recommend talking to a family law solicitor 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.

Being prepared before you travel is the best way to ensure a smooth start to your holiday this summer!

About the author: Gemma Iceton works for Browell Smith & Co in Newcastle. She has 15 years’ experience in Family Law and deals with all family law matters, including complex finances on separation, children, pre-nuptial and living-together agreements.

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