Can I take my child on holiday and can the ‘absent’ father legally do the same?

As we approach summer, we explore this common scenario in a little more detail and hope to offer some clarity.

Going on holiday should be a fun and exciting time – not just for children but for the grown ups too! After all, we work hard and need a break to recharge our batteries, especially if a recent separation or divorce has been a stressful one; time to unwind and spend quality time with your child is very much needed.

Now that holiday season is fast approaching and countries around the world are opening up to us once more, I am often asked ‘can a mother stop a father taking the child on holiday?’ and vice versa. This is the legal world, so it’s never quite as simple as a yes or no!

Here are some things to consider and let’s use an ‘absent’ father as the example in this instance:

  • Does the father have a  child arrangements order?
  • Does any existing court order state what the father is allowed to do in relation to holidays with the child?
  • Does the father plan to take the child on holiday abroad and for how long?
  • Does the father plan to take the child on holiday in the UK and for how long?
  • If appropriate, will anyone else be going on holiday with the child – often a new partner doesn’t go down too well with the other parent?
  • Will the proposed holiday eat into any arranged contact time with the child and has an alternative arrangement been offered?
  • Does the mother have concerns about possible child abduction if going abroad?
  • Will the trip impact on school attendance and will the child miss any time in education?
  • Does the child actually want to go on the holiday?

In children law, if a father has a court order saying he is a primary or shared carer of the child (such as a child arrangements order) then he should be allowed to take the child on holiday for a period of up to 4 weeks without first having to get the permission of the mother or anyone else who shares parental responsibility. However, 4 weeks is a long time and may impact heavily on the child’s normal routine and this should be considered.

If the mother has a genuine objection to the father taking their child on holiday abroad she could apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order and take prohibited steps to try and stop the holiday from going ahead. The court would then make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

Communication and agreement around such arrangements are so important in situations like this. Just bear in mind that if a father takes his child abroad on holiday without the mother’s agreement or appropriate court order in place, then there is a potential risk that he might be found guilty of Child Abduction in court. And again – vice versa!

Often most separated parents don’t have a a child arrangements order and one is not necessary unless they absolutely cannot agree on care and contact for the child.  Basically, if either parent wants to take the child abroad on holiday, they need the other parent’s agreement or a court order. We strongly recommend you get this in writing so everyone knows what has been agreed. 

If the parent has a different name to the child they may well require a Consent form signed by the other parent allowing the holiday to take place, without such form the airline may refuse the child entry.

If you have a question about where you stand on foreign or UK holidays or you can’t reach an agreement over custody and contact, Sheryl Perry Solicitors can help. We have the expertise and legal knowledge behind us to support you and your child in such situations. 

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