Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / Can I take my child abroad on holiday without my ex-partner’s permission?
Janet Raeburn

Partner - East Sussex (Uckfield)

6th December 2023

Can I take my child abroad on holiday without my ex-partner’s permission?

As Christmas holidays are now approaching, many parents will be arranging to take their children abroad during the holidays, whether for just a few days or for longer. For separated parents, however, arranging to take children on holiday can often be the source of considerable stress and friction; they will often also need to contend with obtaining the consent of the other parent. Where such consent isn’t easily obtained, this can cause a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety regarding whether the holiday can proceed. To help make your holiday planning less stressful, we’ve addressed some of the most common questions for you.

What is the legal position?

In brief, anybody who takes a child out of England and Wales without the permission of everyone who has parental responsibility for that child or an order of the Court may be committing the criminal offence of child abduction. It is therefore very important that any necessary permissions are obtained in writing.

The first step is to consider who has parental responsibility for the child. If you are in any doubt as to who does or does not have parental responsibility for a particular child then further advice should be sought from a family solicitor.

Does my Child Arrangements Order let me take my child on holiday?

Where there is a Child Arrangements Order already in place that includes an order that the child ‘lives with’ one parent, then that parent is permitted to take the child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for a period of up to 28 days at a time. It is increasingly common for Orders to state that a child ‘lives with’ both parents before setting out when they live with each parent. In this case either parent is permitted to take the child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for a period of up to 28 days at a time, although this will need to fall within their period of contact. Some Child Arrangements Orders directly address whether the parents are permitted to take the child abroad for holidays and what conditions must be met to achieve this. In such cases careful consideration should be given to the exact wording of the Order to ensure it is complied with. If you are in any way unclear as to whether you are permitted to take the child abroad on holiday then you should contact a family solicitor for advice on this specific point. In any event details of any proposed holiday abroad should usually be given to the other parent so they are aware of the position.

What if the other parent won’t agree to me taking my child on holiday? What are my options?

Where there is no Child Arrangements Order in place addressing the issue of holidays abroad, then steps should be taken to inform the other parent of any proposed trip abroad as early as possible.

Travel details should be provided as soon as they can. Details that would be helpful to provide include:

  • dates of travel
  • destination
  • flight details
  • accommodation details
  • emergency contact numbers

If a parent feels they are being provided with full information and have been properly consulted then they are more likely to provide their consent to the holiday. If they are willing to consent to the trip then such consent should be obtained in writing to ensure that there is a clear record of it.

Whilst it would ideally be possible to reach agreement in relation to a holiday directly, if this is not possible then mediation is often a very helpful process for trying to discuss and resolve any concerns so that an agreement can be reached and the holiday can proceed.

If agreement cannot be obtained easily then it may be helpful to seek the advice of a family solicitor who can try and assist with any difficulties or advise what reassurance may be given to the other parent to enable their agreement to be obtained. If the other person with parental responsibility acts unreasonably or simply will not give their consent to the holiday abroad then consideration can be given to making an application to Court for a Specific Issue Order providing permission for the holiday to proceed. The Court would consider the proposal carefully together with any concerns that the other parent had and would ultimately make a decision based on what is in the child’s best interests in terms of whether the holiday should be permitted to proceed.

Given the costs involved and the impact it can have on the relationship of the parents, a court application should be considered a last resort. That said, whilst applications to the Court can be made urgently, given delays with the Court there is no guarantee that a Hearing will be listed in time if the holiday is due to take place imminently. Therefore any application to the Court should be made as soon as possible if it is clear that consent will not be granted.

Other factors to consider?

  • In case there are difficulties obtaining consent to a trip, full details of the proposed trip should be provided to the other parent at the earliest opportunity to ensure that there is time to resolve any issues and try to reach an agreement on the trip either directly, via mediation or via solicitors, also leaving time for an application to be made to the Court if necessary.
  • It is worth checking whether the country you are visiting have any requirements in terms of written consents needed from the other parent when passing through border control. As a minimum a permission letter for the holiday signed by the other parent and providing their contact details should be carried on the trip.

Contact us

If you are having difficulties in terms of obtaining another person’s consent for a holiday overseas with a child then we would recommend seeking specialist family law advice at an early stage. In such circumstances, please do not hesitate to reach out to Janet Raeburn, Family Law Partner, on e. janetraeburn@rixandkay.co.uk or t. 01825 744482.