Do I Need My Ex-Partner's Permission to Take My Child Abroad?

Posted 19th April 2022

Written by Newtons Family Law Team

Airplane flying against a blue sky with clouds.

The sun is out, and the school holidays are fast approaching. Thoughts of taking the children away in the UK or abroad for a summer break might be top of the agenda, but before you book those flights, ask yourself – do I need my ex-partner’s permission to take my child abroad?

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.

Parental Responsibility

Regardless of contact orders or residence orders, parental responsibility is key to taking a child out of the country. Parental responsibility is a range of legal duties and authorities covering various duties regarding the child’s care, from their name to where they go to school.

You must get permission from anyone with parental responsibility to take a child abroad unless you have a child arrangement order that says the child must live with you. If that is the case, you can take the child for up to one month without the consent of the other parent, but for over 28 days you must still get permission from the other parent.

Parental responsibility is automatically given to mothers and is given to fathers who are either named on the birth certificate or married to the mother when the child is born. It can also be granted to other guardians where that is deemed necessary.

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

 

Child Arrangement Orders

The Children and Families Act (2014) replaced the previous contact and residence orders with ‘child arrangement orders’, which covers custody issues with contact and residence arrangements.

When dealing with a child arrangement order, there are certain factors to bear in mind:

  • It is always advisable to obtain the other parent’s written consent to the holiday and for the consenting parent to be provided with a copy of the flight and accommodation details.
  • A parent can take a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission for up to one month if the travelling parent has parental responsibility and a child arrangement order stating that the child must live with them.
    • If they wish to take the child for a longer period and consent is unreasonably withheld, an application may be made to the court.
  • In a situation where both parents have parental responsibility, and there are no other restrictions in place, neither parent can take the child on holiday outside the United Kingdom without the other parent’s written consent or any other party with parental responsibility.

Generally, if an agreement can be reached between the parties, an application to the court will not be necessary. If the case does require a court application, permission for a child to go abroad is usually given by a court. Often details are required stating where the child will be staying, the date of departure and return, flight information and contact telephone numbers.

 

What Happens If I Don’t Get Permission?

If the correct procedure is not followed and you attempt to take your child abroad without permission, you could face criminal charges for child abduction. Child abduction is a serious offence and, though once a rare occurrence, has become more common in recent years as international travel has become more affordable. You may also find yourself refused entry to your holiday country if you don’t have the correct documentation with you. This is the last thing you want after a long flight, not to mention the wasted holiday costs.

If you have parental responsibility and believe your child is at risk of abduction by your ex-partner or anyone else connected to the child, you can object to your child being taken abroad. You should contact a solicitor immediately for guidance in taking the necessary steps to protect the child unless you believe that the child may be taken out of the country within 48 hours. In this case, you should contact the police on 999.

 

Unfortunately, the question ‘do I need my ex-partner’s permission to take my child abroad’ does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Dealing with divorce and child law can be a complicated and emotional process for parents and guardians.

If you would like to discuss any custody issues regarding your child, including child abduction and family dispute resolution options, get in touch with our team of family lawyers today.