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Are you a separated parent looking to take your child abroad on holiday?

13th February 2018

Parental responsibilities and rights are of great importance when considering whether or not you can take your child abroad.  If you are the child’s mother you automatically have parental responsibilities and rights. If you are the child’s father, you will have parental responsibilities and rights if you were married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, or subsequently, or, if you are an unmarried father and your name is recorded on the child’s birth certificate (if the child was born on or after 4 May 2006).

At some point you will probably wish to take your child abroad on holiday. If you wish to travel outside the United Kingdom for a holiday, planning is required, because you need the consent of the other parent if that other parent has parental responsibilities and rights.  If that consent is refused, you may wish to apply to the court for a court order to take your child outside the United Kingdom.

However, most parents tend to agree on holidays abroad without too much difficulty, and it is relatively unusual for one parent to refuse consent to allow a child to leave the United Kingdom for a holiday.  Whatever the circumstances, it’s very important to plan ahead.  You should communicate with the other parent, and seek consent with courtesy, and in good time, so that no one feels under pressure. If consent is refused it’s important to seek expert legal advice without delay.  Obtaining a court order can be a complex and lengthy process.

It is normally assumed that safe travel abroad is beneficial to a child and in their best interests, with additional arguments that if the trip is to visit relatives in a foreign country, and learn something about roots and cultural heritage, that is also beneficial.  The paramount consideration for the court is the welfare of the child. The feelings of the adults involved have very little weight; it all comes down to what’s best for the child.

Although it is generally regarded that safe travel is beneficial, the following are among the most significant factors which the court may take into account: –

  • Can the parent who is wishing to take the child abroad be relied upon to return to the United Kingdom at the end of the holiday? Is the idea of the holiday simply an excuse to take a child out of the United Kingdom, and then fail to return? The family team at Morisons had a case recently where the Sheriff considered that the parent wanting to take a child to Algeria (a country where the Hague Convention on child abduction does not apply) might not return, and the court refused the request.
  • Is the holiday destination safe for the child?
  • Will the holiday unreasonably interfere with the contact between the child and the parent at home?
  • Will the holiday interfere with the child’s education?
  • Is the holiday properly planned?

The parent whose consent is sought should be told the holiday destination, the travel plans, where the child will be staying and contact details for that place.

In summary, if you wish to take your child away from the United Kingdom on holiday, plan as early as possible, approach the child’s other parent courteously and in good time, and attempt to reach an agreement. It is sensible to seek the agreement in writing.  If any problems arise, seek early advice from a solicitor. All of the solicitors in our family law team are experts in matters such as these, and well able to give you early, accurate and sympathetic advice.

*The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be interpreted as legal advice.

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Divorce & Family Law Specialist Scotland- Alasdair Docwra

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