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The long anticipated school summer holiday break is almost upon us. Whilst most children are looking forward to a well-earned break, school holidays can throw up unexpected challenges and conflicts for divorced and separated parents, who may find themselves suddenly at odds with their ex even if their term-time family arrangements have been running smoothly.

If your ex refuses to co-operate with you over school holiday plans it may be necessary to seek the help of a family solicitor. In extreme circumstances, where parents cannot reach agreement over arrangements for their children during the school holidays or at other times, the Courts can be asked to intervene.

When there is no child arrangements order, taking a child/children out of the UK for a holiday requires the consent of every person with parental responsibility. A mother automatically has parental responsibility, as does a married father irrespective of whether the marriage to the mother occurred before or after the birth of the child. As from the 1 December 2003, unmarried fathers of children whose birth is registered on or after this date, provided they are named on the birth certificate of the child, also have parental responsibility.

If that consent cannot be obtained, then the Court’s permission must be sought. Taking a child out of the UK without consent may constitute a child abduction. If it is, it might have civil and criminal consequences. It is a serious matter and there might be significant penalties. This is true even if the child or children are taken away for a short holiday.

It’s always advisable to clarify the situation with a family lawyer well in advance if you intend to take a child out of the UK. This is all the more important where there is any real doubt about whether all holders of parental responsibility will consent to the removal. If it’s not possible for parents to agree whether a child/children should be removed from the UK for a holiday, the matter must be referred to the Court to decide.

If you have a child arrangements order which states that your children live with you, then you can go abroad with the children for up to 28 days without seeking permission from everyone with parental responsibility. You must, however, still make the children available for any contact arrangements ordered within the child arrangements order.

Whilst this strict legal right applies, it’s still sensible for a person with a child arrangements order in their favour to consult the other holders of parental responsibility about any proposed visit overseas. At the very least, good and cooperative parenting should mean that those with parental responsibility should be informed in advance of the holiday and provided with a travel itinerary.

It is also important to bear in mind that if your children do not have the same surname as you, then you may have difficulty in returning to the UK through some terminals. Although it is not a legal requirement in the UK, you may wish to travel with some form of written confirmation that you are your children’s parent.

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.