The prospect of going on holiday abroad should be an exciting one, eagerly anticipated and impatiently awaited. But for a parent who is separated or divorced it can be hugely stressful when their ex wants to take their children abroad.
Whether or not your ex can take your children on a holiday outside of the UK will depend on any legal arrangements in place regarding their care and custody, such as a Shared Parenting Agreement, and who has parental responsibility.
What is Parental Responsibility?
All mothers and most fathers automatically have parental responsibility (PR). A father usually has PR if he was married to the child’s mother or was listed on the child’s birth certificate (although only for births from 1 December 2003 and depending on where in the UK the child was born).
Unmarried fathers can get PR by getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or a PR order from a court.
Anyone, not just parents, wishing to take a child out of the UK needs the permission of those with parental responsibility for a child or from a court beforehand. Taking a child abroad without permission is considered child abduction.
In cases where there is a child arrangements order (a court order stipulating day-to-day practicalities, such as where children live, contact, schooling etc.), a parent can take children abroad for 28 days without gaining the permission of anyone else with parental responsibility.
However, they might be asked at a UK or foreign border to prove they have permission to take the children abroad, especially if their surnames differ. In such cases they will need to produce a letter from anyone with parental responsibility show they have permission and evidence of their relationship with the child, such as a birth or adoption certificate, a divorce or marriage certificate.
Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps orders
If your ex does not have your permission, as someone with parental responsibility, to take your children abroad, they will need to apply to the Family Court for that permission by way of a Specific Issue Order. If the court grants permission, your ex will no longer need your consent.
An alternative measure is a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO). This is an order granted by the Family Court preventing either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. A PSO addresses a single specific issue and imposes a restriction, for example, on changing a child’s surname or removing a child from the UK (where there is no child arrangements order in force).
Help is at hand
Establishing Parental Responsibility, preparing a Shared Parenting Agreement, applying for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order - all are complex areas where the expertise and advice of a family law specialist can help.
Edward Hayes LLP’s family law solicitors are experienced in dealing with complex issues concerning children and international cases, including abduction with removal from the UK.