separated parents holiday rights

One of the questions that I am asked on a regular basis is ‘Do I need consent to take the children on holiday within the UK?’

Whilst technically the Children Act covers the jurisdiction of England and Wales (there being a number of different provisions within Scotland and Northern Ireland), in reality when it comes to holiday purpose, Scotland and Northern Ireland is treated pretty much as a whole when it comes to Separated Parents Holiday Rights.

The short answer to the above question is no, there is no specific requirement for consent to be secured from the other parent in order to take their children away on holiday within the UK.

Taking children on holiday within the UK – issues to consider

As is often the case however there are a number of specific issues which need to be taken into account.

Timing of the proposed holiday

Broadly, the response to this question will depend upon whether the proposed holiday is going to be taken within a time which is usually provided to that parent, i.e. if it is for example during an agreed holiday that will be spent with a parent during Easter and summer etc. If however there is a desire or wish for a holiday arrangement that would impinge upon time the child would normally spend with the other parent then discussion and negotiation will need to be undertaken to provide for this to occur. Consequently, I would generally advise that if you are looking to take the child away within the UK on holiday you should have a relatively clear idea of when the children are meant to be with you for arrangements to be made for that holiday to be taken within that period.

Sharing details about the holiday

I have also often been asked whether it is necessary to have to tell the other parent where you are going and provide any details about the holiday or indeed whether you are required to be told if the other parent intends to do so.

Strictly and technically the answer again to these questions would be no, there is no specific requirement or statute which would require this.

When this query arises, I will often invite the parent who raises the query to put themselves in the position of the other parent and consider taking a relatively common sense approach. For example, if the parent intending to take the child away for two weeks which might include a considerable amount of driving would it not be reasonable to notify the other parent of where it is intended to take the child on holiday and provide confirmation of safe arrival etc.

In circumstances where a parent takes a view that this information should not be imparted to the other parent, this may in fact be an issue that masks an underlying more significant issue in the relationship between the parents and the arrangements for childcare.

Also, given that during a period of say a two-week holiday it would be unusual for the children not to have any contact at all with the other parent, it is not likely to be in the child’s best interests to in effect have required them to withhold information about the holiday location etc from the other parent during that period of time.

When is consent required?

The one area where consent is almost certainly required would be if there is a wish to take the children out of school to attend the holiday.

If one of the parents refuses to give consent for the children to be removed from school for this purpose should the matter arise in court as a specific issue or prohibited steps application (see later article) unless the position truly is exceptional given that the current legislation and government stance is very much that children should not be taken out of school for the purposes of holiday it is then unlikely that a court would countenance or allow such an arrangement to be put into place.

There have been circumstances in cases that I have been involved in where courts have limited or restricted a parent’s ability to take a child on holiday within the UK. The one that comes to mind was immediately following the terrorist attacks in London on 7/7 and the court accepted an argument on behalf of the parent that it would be inappropriate for the child to travel to London immediately in the aftermath and confirmed a period of delay before such a trip could be taken.

Advice on taking your children on holiday in the UK

If you are planning on going on holiday in the UK and would like more information, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.

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 look at travelling abroad with children and the consent required to do that.

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.