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Law Articles

Removing children from the UK following separation/divorce 01/12/2023

When you separate or divorce, and there are children involved, there are often many things to consider in relation to those children, such as which parent the children will live with, how much time they will spend with the non-resident parent etc. However, one question which often comes up time and again, is whether a parent can take their child on holiday abroad without the permission of the other parent. The answer is yes, if you have written permission from all parties who have parental responsibility for the children or, if no such permission is granted, you have a court order allowing the travelling parent to remove the children from the UK for the purpose of a holiday abroad.

Parental responsibility constitutes “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”. All birth mothers automatically obtain parental responsibility. Fathers who were married to the mother at the time of the birth, or who were named on the child’s birth certificate (applies to births after 1 December 2003 in England), will also have this status. Second female partners who were married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother at the time the child was conceived also obtain automatic parental responsibility.

If a parent is not entitled to automatic parental responsibility as explained above, they can obtain it by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the other parent or by applying to the Family Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Once it is established who has parental responsibility for the children, permission to travel abroad needs to be obtained from everyone who holds it. Once permission has been obtained, a simple letter is usually sufficient to set out that this is the case. The travelling parent should ensure they have the letter in their possession when travelling abroad.

If the non-travelling parent withholds consent, the travelling parent may apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order allowing them to travel. Such applications take time, so it is advisable to make them well in advance of the holiday. The court is likely to grant such an order unless there is a risk that the travelling parent may not return the child to the UK. If the travelling parent attempts to remove the child from the UK without a court order or written permission from the other parent, the non-travelling parent may apply to the Family Court for a Prohibited Steps Order to stop the travelling parent from removing the child from the UK. Such orders are only usually granted if there is a risk of the child not being returned to the UK.

If parents have a Child Arrangements Order detailing which parent the children live with and how much time they spend with the non-resident parent, such orders will also contain a provision prohibiting the removal of children from the UK without the other parent’s written consent, however the prohibition does not apply to the parent with whom the children live from removing them from the UK for less than one month.

If the travelling parent takes a child abroad without written consent of the other parent or without a court order allowing them to remove the child from the UK, it amounts to child abduction which is a criminal offence. The other practical issue the travelling parent may encounter is that border control may prevent them from leaving the UK without a court order or written permission from the non-travelling parent.

Irrespective of the written permission and/or court order referred to in this article, it is always good practice to provide the non-travelling parent with as much information about the proposed holiday outside the UK as possible, such as details of the flights, accommodation, what type of contact the children will have with the non-traveling parent during the holiday etc.

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.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 07977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.

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