on holiday abroad, mother puts suncream on daughter's face at the seaside. girl wears red sunglasses and white hat

A common question that separated parents ask us is, ‘do I need consent to take my children on holiday abroad?’

This article addresses the question, considering standard holidays abroad, as well as the more complicated position where there may be concerns that one parent intends to turn the holiday into a more permanent move, removing the children from the UK entirely.

Primarily, this article focusses on the situation where, for example, one parent may intend to take the child on holiday to Spain, Portugal, etc. for a period of two weeks.

Do you need consent to take a child on holiday abroad?

Unlike in my previous article on holidaying in the UK, the starting point in response to this question is yes.

Consent is required from everybody that holds parental responsibility, other than in certain circumstances. These days, this pretty much means that the consent of both parents will be required, where at the very least the father has been recorded on the child’s birth certificate .

Consequently, if you wish to take the child abroad, the consent of the other parent is required.

Do you need to have consent in writing?

It is not always necessary for consent to be recorded in writing, however there are exceptions to this, such as the legal requirements of the country you are visiting. South Africa, for example, requires a consent document from both parents.

In certain situations, one parent may, as part of a power play, subsequently contend that consent was not provided (or seek to remove it), so it may be preferable to have it in writing.

The other practical circumstance where such consent may be helpful to have in writing arises when a parent, seeking to travel abroad for a holiday with their children, has a different surname to what the child has on their passport. In these cases, some families have been stopped by the airport and prevented from travelling any further.

Whilst it may seem excessive, if travelling with a child whose name is not the same as the accompanying parent, it may be helpful to carry appropriate documentation to confirm relationship with the child such as birth certificate, Court Order, etc.

What if you have a Child Arrangements Order?

Technically, consent is not required in circumstances where the travelling parent holds a Child Arrangements Order – Live With, as in those circumstances the Live With Order provides authority for that parent to travel abroad for the purposes of holiday for a period or periods of up to one month in any one year.

In the event of a shared care arrangement where both parents are provided with a Live With Order, this will provide that authority to each parent.

In making arrangements for the holiday, consideration should be given to trying to arrange this within periods of time when the child would normally be in that parent’s care, to avoid any dispute arising over the impact and effect of the other parent’s time with the child.

You can find out more about that in my previous article on taking children on holiday here.

Do you need to share details of the holiday?

It is not strictly necessary (by reason of legislation) for details in respect of the holiday to be provided to the other parent, but it is worth considering sharing them.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the other parent, in general terms it is usually recognised and acknowledged (particularly if the case comes before the Court) that, especially when travelling abroad, it would be reasonable to notify the other parent of travel dates and certain travel arrangements. For example, which airport you are flying from, what your flight numbers are, where the child will be staying and how contact can be secured and/or maintained if necessary.

What if parents disagree over taking children on holiday abroad and take it to Court?

In circumstances where a parent requires the others consent (or indeed a parent whose consent is not required) and objects to a foreign holiday, the Court can be engaged to deal with the matter. This could be through either specific issue or prohibited steps applications to determine whether a holiday can be taken or otherwise.

It should however be recognised that unless there are good reasons why a child should not go on a foreign holiday, Courts will often take a view that it is generally in a child’s best interests to be able to travel, fly and experience other countries.

There are however on occasions genuine reasons why a foreign holiday might be refused which can include for example:

  1. Travel to a politically unstable country;
  2. Concern about recent terrorist activity;
  3. Removal of a child from school for the purposes of holiday during term time. Courts are very reluctant to endorse such removal unless there are genuine exceptional circumstances; and
  4. Concerns over Covid, due to wishes of the child (genuine or perceived) and concerns over travel requirements or restrictions, both of the UK and of country being visited.

However, as is so often the case with children proceedings, many of the decisions which are made in this regard will be case specific and will take into account all of the relevant circumstances. In particular, what is in the child’s best interests? This may be inclusive of, for example, any medical, health or other issues specific to the individual children.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

The next article in the series will discuss the distribution and sharing of school holidays and special days between parents.

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.