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Important summer holiday advice for separated families

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Now that coronavirus travel restrictions are all but lifted, many of us are looking forward to a summer holiday in sunnier climes. But for separated families, agreeing arrangements over the summer holidays can be very stressful. Problems often arise when one parent wants to take the children abroad on holiday, but travel plans cannot be agreed.

Understanding ‘Parental Responsibility’

For a child to leave the country, even for a holiday, every person with Parental Responsibility for that child must consent. Parental Responsibility is defined in section three of the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.” Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility for their child, as do fathers who are married to or in a civil partnership with their child’s mother. Unmarried fathers, step-parents and grandparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.

The only exception to the above rule is where there is a Child Arrangements Order in place confirming that the child or children live solely with one parent (or an older style Residence Order, should you have one of those). If so, then you are able to take your child or children away for up to a month, provided there are no restrictions on your travelling.

You must seek permission first

Parental Responsibility gives both parents the authority in law to make decisions on behalf of their child. These decisions include those relating to medical treatment, education or travel arrangements – and we often see a sharp increase in queries from parents at this time of year about holiday arrangements. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities as a parent as, without the other parent’s consent, you cannot remove a child from England even for the purposes of a short holiday overseas. If one parent goes away on holiday with the children without agreeing arrangements beforehand, there can be significant consequences – and it may even be considered as child abduction.

It is therefore important to agree all holiday arrangements in good time before any trips depart, to make sure you have the consent of everybody with Parental Responsibility.  If arrangements cannot be agreed, then you may need to seek the assistance of the Court to either prevent the children from travelling, or to secure permission to take them. If so, taking legal advice at an early stage is vital – so, if you are a parent or guardian looking to travel abroad for a holiday this summer and do not think that other parent or person with Parental Responsibility will agree, you may need to apply to Court urgently to determine whether or not you can go away as intended. 

Get in touch

Attwaters Jameson Hill have a wealth of experience and knowledge dealing with travel arrangements and now offer a 30-minute free assessment meeting to discuss your concerns, so please do contact our Family Law experts if you need any help on 0330 221 8855 or email familylaw@attwaters.co.uk.

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