Children’s law expert Lucy Jones examines separated parents’ holiday rights, including the common scenario where a parent wishes to take a child on holiday against the other’s wishes.
Lucy is available on 01225 755656. You can also contact her by email or by completing the Contact Form below.
Child Arrangements Order
This is a common issue that raises its head for separated parents where their child or children live with one parent but have contact with the other. It can be a particular issue if a parent wishes to take a child abroad. Whether it’s permissible to take a child abroad on holiday depends on whether there is a Child Arrangements Order in force regulating with whom the child should live and have contact. A Child Arrangements Order, therefore, impacts separated parents’ holiday rights.
Prohibited Steps Order
The parent with whom the child lives can take the child abroad any number of times provided each trip is for less than a month. Should the other parent be unhappy about this, they can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order to restrict this right by way of an amendment to the Child Arrangements Order.
Children Act 1989
If the parent with whom the child lives wishes to take the child abroad for longer than a month, section 13 of the Children Act 1989 requires that parent to obtain:
- the written permission of every person or organisation with parental responsibility for the child; or
- the permission of the court.
Likewise, if the parent with whom the child only has contact wishes to take the child abroad for any period of time, they must obtain permission from everyone who has parental responsibility. In all cases, the permission should be in writing, and it should be clear that permission is being given for a short period of time for the purpose of a holiday only.
What if there is no Child Arrangements Order in force?
If there is no Child Arrangements Order in force in respect of the child:
- permission should be obtained from everyone with parental responsibility for the child (including the father of the child even if he does not have parental responsibility); or, failing that
- permission should be obtained from the court.
Although the parent taking the child abroad would not be in breach of a court order for doing so without permission, it is always advisable to inform your ex of your holiday intentions and obtain their consent because:
- It’s common courtesy to inform everyone with parental responsibility (including the child’s father whether or not he has parental responsibility) that you are taking the child abroad for a period of time. They may otherwise be concerned for the welfare of the child.
- A failure to obtain consent may result in an application to the court by your ex under the Child Abduction Act 1984, alleging that you have abducted the child from the country.
Child Abduction Act 1984
Should such an application be made, you will be required to respond to this allegation, and provide evidence of one of the following:
- that your ex consented to you travelling abroad for a holiday with the child.
- you acted in the belief that your ex has provided consent.
- if your ex was aware of the full circumstances, then they would have provided consent.
- you have taken all possible measures to communicate with your ex but have been able to do so.
- your ex has refused to consent and that consent was unreasonable.
Once such an application has been made, you will be a party to court proceedings involving you in time and expense. The proceedings may also impact the terms of any future Child Arrangements Order.
Separated parents’ holiday rights: obtaining permission from the court
Should you need to apply for permission from the court to take your child abroad on holiday, you must apply for a Specific Issue Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. In making a decision, the court will consider the welfare and best interests of the child or children, taking into consideration:
- the Welfare Checklist at section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989;
- Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Do I need my ex’s permission to take the children on holiday in the UK?
Separated parents’ holiday rights are different if you wish to take the children on holiday within England and Wales. In that case, you will not require permission to do so unless there is a court order in place specifying the days on which contact should take place and the holiday will impact that contact.
As with holidays abroad, it is always advisable to inform your ex of your holiday intentions.