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Arrangements for taking children abroad when you do not live with their other parent can be confusing.
The law in England and Wales means that everyone who has Parental Responsibility for a child must give permission before that child can be taken abroad. This means that if you are divorced or separated and you are planning on going abroad with your child, you should obtain written permission beforehand from anyone else with Parental Responsibility and take this with you on your trip. Taking a child abroad without permission could be considered as child abduction, which is a criminal offence.
A mother has Parental Responsibility for her child automatically from the time of birth. In England and Wales, both parents have Parental Responsibility if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of the child's birth or when fertility treatment started, or if they have jointly adopted the child. Both parents will keep Parental Responsibility if they later divorce or dissolve a civil partnership. A parent will automatically obtain Parental Responsibility if they are named on the child's birth certificate.
A parent who does not automatically have Parental Responsibility can gain it by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court or drawing up a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child's other parent. Parental Responsibility is generally limited to those with significant responsibility for a child but can be granted to more than two people.
For many separated parents, trips abroad will be agreed, and the issue of permission will be a formality. A simple letter containing the other person’s contact details and the details of the trip, and stating that permission is granted, should be sufficient. You may be asked to produce this at a UK or foreign border, or if a dispute later arises about the child going abroad. It is also helpful to take evidence of your relationship with the child – such as birth or adoption certificate – and a divorce or marriage certificate, particularly if your surname is not the same as your child’s.
If the Court has granted you a Child Arrangements Order (which decides who the child lives with and the frequency, type, and duration of contact with the non-resident parent) you can take your child abroad for up to 28 days without obtaining permission from your former partner or others with Parental Responsibility, unless a Court Order prohibits you from doing so. In this instance, it is still good practice to consult with the non-resident parent about the trip and provide them with details of your trip including the destination, accommodation, travel dates, contact number etc.
If you cannot gain permission from the other people with Parental Responsibility to take your child abroad (in the absence of a Child Arrangements Order), you will need to apply to the Court for permission in good time before your proposed trip as these applications can take time.
If you wish to remove the child abroad on a permanent basis, as opposed to just a holiday, you will need the consent of others with Parental Responsibly or the Court’s permission. However, in this instance, the court will require much more information about the proposed move abroad than it requires for an application to travel abroad for the purpose of a holiday and the court process may take many months.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles