Can I take my children abroad without the consent of my ex-husband or wife?

Posted 19th July 2016

Written by Emma Hartley - Family law team - Newtons York office

The sun is out and the school holidays are fast approaching. Thoughts of taking the children away in the UK or aboard for a summer break might be top of the agenda.

If you are parents who are separated, it may be that you need the consent of the other parent before you can take your children abroad. This will depend on whether any court orders, child arrangement orders or residence orders are in place.

What if there are no orders in place?

If only one parent has parental responsibility and there are no residence orders concerning the child, permission is not strictly needed by the other parent to take a child abroad on holiday.

In a situation where both parents have parental responsibility and there are no residence orders or other restrictions in place, neither parent can take the child on holiday outside the United Kingdom without the written consent of the other parent, or any other party with parental responsibility. A solicitor will be able to confirm who has parental responsibility if you are unsure. If consent is refused, an application to the court will need to be made for permission, otherwise the travelling parent could face criminal charges for child abduction.

If grandparents and other family members want to take the children abroad, permission will be needed from all parties with parental responsibility.

What if a residence order is in place?

A parent with a residence order can take a child abroad for up to one month without the written consent of the other parent. If they wish to take the child for a longer period, and consent is unreasonably withheld, then an application may be made to the court.

In most cases, permission for a child to go abroad is usually given by a court. Often details are required stating where the child will be staying, giving the date of departure and return, flight information and contact telephone numbers.

Generally, if an agreement can be reached between the parties, an application to the court will not be necessary. However, it is always advisable to obtain the other parent’s written consent to the holiday and for the consenting parent to be provided with copy flight and accommodation details.