Concept for - Overseas holiday arrangements for separated families

Sarah Bell, specialist in family law relating to children, considers the legal implications of taking children of separated couples out of the jurisdiction and addresses the issue of consent.

Taking your children on holiday abroad – consent

It is sometimes misconstrued by parents that they can just take children abroad. Legally, however, this is not correct.

In the absence of any court order setting out the time the children spend with both parents and, if both parents have parental responsibility for the children, they will need to agree the arrangements with each other and give permission to the other to enable the child to be taken abroad. Sometimes the airports wish to see a document signed by the absent parent which records this agreement.

If there is a court order in place which sets out where the children live, such permission is not required, and the children can be taken out of the jurisdiction for up to a month at a time as long as the order which sets out the time they spend with both parents can continue.

It is sensible to provide as much information that you have about taking your child out of the UK for a holiday to the other parent at an early stage such as:

  • Flight times and departure / arrival details / airport
  • Where you will be staying (hotels and area);

If the relocation will be more permanent than a holiday the following needs to be discussed:

  • Where you will be living
  • Schooling
  • Healthcare
  • How the relationship with the ‘left behind’ parent will be maintained and the frequency of any visits

Providing this information at an early stage may enable agreement to be reached without an application to the court. If agreement cannot be reached, the court can be utilised to make a decision.

Preventing a holiday abroad

In any case of this nature, we suggest you seek advice as quickly as possible. Some top tips include:

  • Act quickly. You can prevent such a move from taking place by making an urgent application to the court for a prohibited steps order and/or child arrangements order.
  • Secure the child’s passport. If the child does not have a passport, try and obtain one as soon as possible and keep it secure from the other parent.
  • Contact the passport service, informing them of the potential abduction so they do not issue another passport.
  • If a child has dual nationality, contact the relevant embassy and inform them of the potential abduction to prevent them from issuing another passport.
  • Contact the police. The police can issue a ‘port alert’ to all ports and airports to prevent your child from being taken out of the country.
  • If necessary, an application can be made to make your child a ward of court. This means the High Court would become a legal guardian for the child to prevent them from being removed from the UK.
  • An application can also be made to the High Court for a ‘tipstaff’ order, enabling the tipstaff to locate a child, collect a child, seize passports and travel documents.
  • Consider if, as an alternative, you wish to put yourself forward to care for the child/children full-time and the practicalities that flow from that.

We have a team of specialist solicitors in both our family and immigration team who can help.


Sarah Bell is a Partner in our top-ranked Family team and has experience in complex children matters.