Taking children abroad – the dos and don’ts for separated parents

    Taking children abroad – the dos and don’ts for separated parents

    If you are separated from your child’s other parent or are currently involved in Court proceedings regarding your children, and want to take the children on holiday overseas, there are some rules that you must follow.

    The rules and implications

    The rules are in place to prevent parents from taking their children to another country and staying there permanently, or for a longer period than had been agreed, and apply to any holiday outside of England and Wales.

    If you do not follow these rules you could be arrested by police and charged with Child Abduction. You could also be punished by the Court if you have broken the terms of a Court order and could be fined. You might also harm your case within any ongoing proceedings if you have broken the terms of a Court order or have not obtained permission from the Court first.

    What do I need to consider?

    The first thing you should consider is whether there is any Child Arrangements Order in place concerning your children, as this will set out your legal obligations concerning holidays. Read it and check what it allows. If in doubt, get some good legal advice about it.

    Some orders may reflect any specific decision of the court over holidays abroad if this issue was raised during proceedings. Make sure you follow any express terms of the Order. Do you need to provide the other parent with your travel details?

    If the Order states that the children live with you, the Order will also usually state that the children can go on holiday overseas with you for up to a month without requiring the consent of other people with parental responsibility (this is usually the other parent, but the Order will set out if anyone else has parental responsibility) but do check what the Order says. If you are in doubt get some legal advice to interpret your order.

    Otherwise and as a general rule, you should always try to obtain the agreement of all of the other people with parental responsibility for your child. That should be recorded in writing by them and placed with your child’s passport to avoid any issues at border control. Let the other parent know the details of your proposed trip and agree to dates in advance. Check any Court Order you have, it may be a direction of an Order, and not doing so may lead to sanctions. If you can’t agree to the holiday you may need to apply for a Court Order to allow the holiday.

    Staying longer than a month?

    If you wish to stay abroad for over a month, you will need to apply to the Family Court for an Order. If there is no Order already allowing a holiday you may need one before you leave. These orders take time so allow plenty of time to apply and for the Court process to be followed.

    If your child has an assigned social worker or Guardian you may also need to contact them to get their views and permission. If the Local Authority has a Care Order or is involved with your child you may need to get the Court’s permission before booking any holiday.

    Do not go abroad without checking you are allowed to do so. If you are the other parent make sure you have all of the relevant travel information. Talk to each other. If you can’t agree think about going to mediation to talk about your concerns and objections and try to come up with a solution.

    What if you are the parent left behind and the other parent has taken your child abroad without your permission?

    Act quickly. As soon as you find out get some legal advice. You might be able to issue a port alert to stop them from leaving. Get legal advice about whether you can do this.

    England is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, as are many countries across the globe. This means that if someone did abscond with a child to another signatory country, that other country can help to facilitate the child’s return to England. There are different rules depending on whether you have an Order that the child lives with you or not.

    Matters can be more complex if you wish to take your child to countries that have not signed the Hague Convention. These countries may not recognise Child Arrangement Orders made in English courts, and if there is no Order at all, it may be more difficult to seek your child’s return.

    So finally, the Dos and Don’ts

    • Do check the wording of any Child Arrangement Order and follow it. If you are not sure about the wording, take it to a lawyer.
    • Do seek permission from other people with parental responsibility. You may not be able to travel lawfully without an Order or their written permission.
    • Do communicate the details of your proposed trip to other people with parental responsibility, including when and how you are travelling, where you are staying, and if/how you need to exchange the children’s passports. Record any agreements in writing and put a copy of the consent with the child’s passport.
    • Don’t attempt to travel without permission from other people with parental responsibility or you may risk arrest for Child Abduction.
    • Don’t change your plans, especially how long you plan to stay or your destination, without permission.
    • Don’t risk it! Seek legal advice if you are unsure.


    Our friendly and knowledgeable Family Team can help with all queries relating to child arrangements, please get in touch to discuss your personal circumstances.


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