Do I need permission to take my child abroad?


10 December 2021

By Farhad Islam

The details surrounding if you need permission from a partner / former partner to take your child abroad are not widely known.

Here we outline a few points and explain the main issues you could face if you try without permission.

The legal rights of mums and dads

The first couple of things to consider is, are there any court orders in place that could stop you from taking your child abroad? And also, do both parties have ‘parental responsibility’?.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is a legal concept that includes the rights, duties and obligations a parent has to a child(ren).

Mothers automatically obtain parental responsibility when a child is born; however, before 2003, unmarried fathers did not.

It was not until 1 December 2003 that, providing the father’s name was on the birth certificate, unmarried fathers would also receive parental responsibility.

If the parents are married or in a civil partnership when the child is born, both parents will have automatic parental responsibility. This also applies to a person who adopts or becomes a legal Guardian of the child.

At the moment in the UK, same-sex female couples can register both of their names on the child’s birth certificate when registering the birth, but same-sex male couples will need to get a parental order from the court before they can be registered as parents.

What the law says about taking children on foreign holidays

If the parents both have parental responsibility and there are no court orders in place, neither one can take the child out of the UK without the written consent of the other.

If one parent has a child arrangements order or residence order stating the child lives with that individual, they can take the child abroad for 28 days without the written consent of the other parent. However, it may not be legally necessary, but it is important that the arrangements are agreed upon by both parties in advance of the travels.

If only one parent, has sole parental responsibility, and there is no court order, then you do not strictly need permission from the other parent. However, we still encourage this to be a joint decision where both parties agree with the arrangements.

A father without parental responsibility can ask the court to grant him parental responsibility and could then object to the child being taken abroad.

Grandparents taking grandchildren on foreign holidays

If grandparents want to take a child out of the country they must have permission from both parents, if both parents have parental responsibility.

When planning for grandparents to take the children abroad, it is best to plan and notify those involved with plenty of notice.

If the grandparents are with the children then this could mean that one party may miss out on contact time, so it is important that that is considered. In most cases, the party that missed out on the contact time, is offered an alternative time, or even extra contact so as to make up for the missed time.

The child’s best interest is central to all decisions

If the court is asked to rule on an agreement regarding taking a child on holiday, the holiday will most likely be allowed. However, the case would be looked at as a whole and the child’s best interest is the main focus. The main thing being that there would be no issues surrounding taking the child abroad, and also that there are no issues in relation to any potential failure to return.

Remember, if you think your child/children will be taken out of the country in the next 48 hours without your permission, call the police on 999. You can also apply for a Prohibited Steps Order preventing the parent with whom the child(ren) lives with from travelling abroad, particularly if you have genuine reason to believe they will not return to the UK.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.