Taking your children abroad after separation

June 2nd 2023

At this time of year our thoughts start turning towards the summer holidays and days spent in the sunshine.  That may include a trip abroad.  What some people don’t realise is that you need the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for a child to remove them out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

The only exceptions to this are:

  1. If the other parent does not have parental responsibility for your child;
  2. You have a court order that states that your child is to live with you, in which case you can take them abroad for a holiday for up to a month without the other parent’s consent;
  3. You have a court order that specifically states that you can take your child abroad.

If you take your child abroad without the consent of the other parent or a court order then you are committing a criminal offence known as child abduction.  This is why it is important to make sure you obtain consent or have a court order and take a copy of the written consent or court order with you, in case you are stopped at Border Control.

As with most decisions relating to children, it is best to talk to the other parent about your holiday plans and try to obtain their consent as far in advance of the holiday as possible.  If you cannot agree on everything, you will have time to attend mediation to discuss matters further or seek legal advice.

If the other parent does not give their consent to the holiday you can apply to court for a specific issue order for permission to take your child abroad.  Do try to plan ahead and make any necessary court application as far in advance as possible.  If the holiday is imminent, you can apply for an order to be made urgently but it is best to give us as much time as possible to prepare your application.

Even when parents have not separated, if one of them wishes to take their child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales without the other parent, they should obtain the written consent of the parent who is not travelling.  

You might be asked for the letter at a UK or foreign border, or if there’s a dispute about taking a child abroad. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip.