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School summer holidays are fast approaching and for many families this will mean the joy of warmer climes or a trip to a cultural hotspot away from our shores.

For families whose parents are no longer in a relationship this is not always as simple as it seems and parents need to be aware of the difficulties that can arise in taking their children out of the country.

Many people aren’t aware that, if there is no court order in place that deals with the children’s living arrangements, the consent of each person with parental responsibility is required before any trip out of the country can take place. A mother will almost always have parental responsibility for her child. There are two main ways that a father will have parental responsibility

  • Being married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth.
  • Being named on the child’s birth certificate (provided the child was born after 1 December 2003).

A parent who looks after their children for the majority of the time would find it natural to take their children out of the country on holiday. However, they could find themselves in a difficult situation. The other parent would technically need to give their consent to take their children on holiday regardless of how much part they play in the children’s day to day lives.

So, what happens if a parent doesn’t get the other’s consent? Potentially, they are committing the criminal offence of child abduction and can be arrested and charged if the other parent reports them to the police. It is also possible for the parent who remains in this country to ask the Court for the children to be returned.

In order to make sure that this doesn’t happen it is important to ensure that consent is obtained prior to leaving the country. This does not need to be anything more formal than a text or e-mail saying that the other parent acknowledges that the children are going away but having something in writing can help to avoid any future disagreement that may arise.

In some situations it might be that on asking or informing the other parent about the holiday, that parent decides to withhold their consent just to be difficult. In this situation it is possible to apply to the Court for a Judge to give permission to travel. An order can also deal with consent for future holidays so that this does not continually arise. The Judge will make the decision based on what is in the children’s best interests.

Whilst it may seem preferable to take the holiday and hope the issue doesn’t arise, the potential for serious consequences means that it’s always worthwhile dealing with any holidays abroad clearly and well in advance. It is always wise to take legal advice before making any application to Court.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.