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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.  Where there is no formal court order in place, taking a child 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.

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 trip.

The first step would be to talk to the other parent at the earliest opportunity and secure their agreement. You never know, they might even be glad of the break themselves! Parents can consider attending mediation at any time to try to reach an agreement in a neutral environment with the assistance of a mediator. 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. Taking a child out of the UK without consent can constitute a Child Abduction and might have criminal consequences. It is a serious matter and there might be significant penalties.

If there do not appear to be any good reasons why the trip cannot take place, then the chances are it should. Applications to court can be made at short notice to resolve the dispute, but in practical terms should be made as soon as any difficulty is suspected.

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.

However, it’s still sensible for a person with a Child Arrangements Order in their favour to consult the other parents or carers about any proposed visit overseas.

Communication and planning ahead are vital if a holiday is to be something everyone can look forward to. Secrecy and last minute confrontations between separated parents should be avoided as this can lead to stress for all concerned.

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.