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For most families, going on holiday is a very exciting and happy occasion. But for some separated parents, planning a holiday abroad can present challenges and uncertainty, hampering what should otherwise be a memorable time for you and your child or children.
Where parents are separated, the other parent’s consent is ordinarily required for you to take your child out of the country.
The first thing to do is notify the other parent of your intention to take the child on holiday. You should give as much advance notice as possible, in case there is disagreement. They should be told the intended dates of travel and where you intend to go and stay during the holiday. It is best to do this before the holiday is booked, unless you can avail of free cancellation.
Even if you are on good speaking terms with the other parent, and they have provided consent in person or over the phone, you should ask them for written consent, either signed on paper, or by email, Whatsapp, or text message.
The other parent would generally be entitled to know the dates and times of travel, method of travel, the countries being visited, details of where the child will be staying, and the names of any other person who will be travelling and staying with the child during the holiday.
If you have a Residence Order (a Court Order that your child shall live with you), the small print at the bottom of these Orders usually stipulates that you are permitted to take the child outside of the country for a period of up to one month. However, it is still highly advisable to inform the other parent.
If the other parent has a Court Order, such as a Contact Order, affording them the right to spend specific periods of time with the child week to week or during school holidays, then you should check the Court Order to ascertain if your intended holiday interferes with that contact time. Legal advice should be sought if you are unsure about this.
There is a firm expectation that a child should be afforded a reasonable level of contact with the other parent during holidays, usually by video calls or phone calls, in keeping with the level of contact usually enjoyed by the other parent.
If you are a foster carer and wish to take your looked-after-child on a holiday abroad, you should consult the allocated Social Worker to discuss the holiday arrangements as soon as practicable.
You should pack a folder of documentation to rely on if needed during your travels and holiday.
This should ideally include:
If the parent is refusing to provide consent for your intended holiday, you could reach out to a mutual relative or friend who may be able to act as a helpful go-between. If that is not possible or does not assist, you should seek legal advice. An application to the local Family Proceedings Court may be required, to obtain what is called a ‘Specific Issue Order’, to permit you and the child to go on the holiday.
If the disagreement arising between you and the other parent is not about the holiday itself, but rather disagreement over the finer details, such as the chosen dates conflicting with the other parent’s plans, the level of contact that the other parent will have with the child during the holiday, or about contact being made up after the holiday, it may be that a Solicitor can still assist you with those issues. However, you may wish to consider if family mediation may be a helpful alternative in the first instance.
Solicitors need sufficient time to prepare Court applications to satisfy their obligations before doing so, and to ensure your documentary evidence is submitted along with the application. The Family Courts are usually extremely busy before the school holiday periods. This is why giving plenty of advance notice to the other parent is sensible, so that all that needs to be done is achieved in good time.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. For further information about any of the issues raised in this article, please feel free to get in touch with our Family & Matrimonial team.