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Can I take my child abroad if I co-parent with my ex?

With the summer holidays now upon us, it is likely that many families will wish to travel abroad.

In circumstances where a couple has separated, those parents should ensure that they know what they can and cannot do in terms of taking the children outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

Where parents have parental responsibility in respect of their children, then they can take their children abroad, but the consent of the other parent must be obtained before the children are taken outside of the jurisdiction on holiday.

What is parental responsibility?

In short, parental responsibility is the legal right to make decisions on behalf of your child. One of those decisions is about taking the children outside of England and Wales. Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility. If a parent is named on a birth certificate, or the couple were married at the time of birth, then this provides the other parent with parental responsibility.

Therefore, in circumstances, where both parents have parental responsibility, then the consent of the other parent must be obtained prior to taking the children outside of the jurisdiction of England to Wales, otherwise this may be a criminal offence of child abduction. If there is a ‘live with’ order in place, then that parent with whom the children live can take them outside of the jurisdiction for up to 28 days without obtaining permission of the other parent.

What if my ex says no to taking my child abroad?

It is important that the parents openly communicate about holidays or that child arrangements are agreed with the assistance of a solicitor. If your ex says no to you going abroad, then you will need to apply to the court to obtain a court order.

How can you avoid problems at the airport?

There are many blended families and for that reason, children can often have a different surname to the parent they are travelling with. They might also be taken abroad by their grandparent, aunt, uncle etc.

Border force officers at Passport Control are expected to check that the child’s surname matches the adult they are travelling with. This is due to safeguarding and more information can be found on the government’s website here. If your child’s surname is different to the adult’s they are travelling with, the officer will require additional documentation to prove that you have permission to take the child abroad.

It is helpful, if when the children are taken to the airport by a parent who does not have the same surname, for example, that they take a signed document whereby the express permission of the other parent is provided to take the children outside of the jurisdiction for their holiday. Their name should be stated on this form and clearly signed and dated. A text message from one parent to the other, is also a good backup.

Other useful documents to have to hand would be the child’s birth certificate, marriage certificate and /or divorce papers.

About the Author

Estella Newbold-Brown is a partner at Amphlett Lissimore and head of the family law department. Estella specialises in all areas of private family law and can advise in respect of children matters, whether this relates to contact disputes, financial claims for children, abduction, or relocation cases.

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