Separated Parents & Summer Holidays: Can I take my child abroad?

The school term is nearly over and summer holidays are fast approaching, with many families looking forward to a well earned break abroad in the sun. However, when parents separate, holiday arrangements can become a minefield as parents look to arrange trips and vacations for their children.

Communication between the separated parents in relation to holidays abroad is essential for resolving any disagreements over any planned, or sought, vacation. Sharing information about the plans, and information about the trip, (i.e. flight and accommodation details) will help to increase the prospects of a holiday being agreed.

It is important that any person looking to take a child on holiday abroad is aware that they cannot be taken out of the United Kingdom unless either:

  • every person who has parental responsibility for them gives permission; or
  • there is an Order in place giving authority to take the child out of the United Kingdom.

Where there is no Child Arrangement Order

It is important, when considering and discussing holiday arrangements following a separation, that the plans are clear and everyone is in agreement to the proposed trip before bookings are made, and money is spent. If you arrange a trip abroad for a child, but cannot obtain permission from the other parent, you could risk losing out on any deposits/fees paid.

When a parent, or any other person, wants to take the children out of the United Kingdom, they require permission from every person who has parental responsibility in order to do so. If any person takes a child outside of the United Kingdom without permission this constitutes ‘child abduction’ and can result in severe consequences for the offending parent.

The parents of a child, obtain parental responsibility for that child in the following ways:

  • The biological mother of the child has parental responsibility for them automatically.
  • The other parent (i.e. biological father/male parent and/or female parent) must either:
    • Be married to the mother at the time of the birth;
    • Be registered on the birth certificate as the child’s parent;
    • Enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother; or
    • Receive parental responsibility in a Court Order.

Generally, unless the trip carries with it an unreasonable risk of harm to the child, holidays abroad will generally be considered beneficial for a child.

Where permission is given, it is recommended that this is obtained in writing so that it can be referred to if required at Passport/Control.

If you can’t obtain permission, and it is being unreasonably withheld, then you should consider applying to the Family Court for a Specific Issue order, seeking permission to take the child outside of the United Kingdom for the holiday as soon as possible, noting that the Court do not typically deal with applications on an urgent basis and could take several months, or longer, for a final decision.

Where there is a Child Arrangement Order

If you either parent has a child arrangement order prescribing that the child/ren ‘lives with’ them then they will be able to take the child/ren on holiday abroad without the other person’s permission on the condition that:

  • The holiday does not breach any other condition/term of the Order; and
  • They cannot be taken out of the United Kingdom for more than 28 days.

If you are a separated parent and would like further advise in relation to taking your child abroad, please contact the Berry Smith Family team where one of our specialist family solicitors will be able to assist you via or 01656 645525