Ahead of the school summer holidays, Kirstie Law gives guidance to separated parents about taking their children abroad and some tips of how separated parents can work together when thinking of booking summer holidays.
Summer holidays for separated parents
With the summer holidays upon us many people are looking forward to trips abroad. Separated parents are often unaware that it is actually an offence under the Child Abduction Act to take their child abroad without the consent of the other parent if he/she has Parental Responsibility or permission of the Family Court. There is an exception that a parent can take their child abroad for up to four weeks if the parent has an appropriate order (Since 22 April 2014 this is an ‘appropriate child arrangements order’ before then it was a ‘residence order’).
Those who are separated and whose ex has parental responsibility should therefore have consulted and checked that the other parent does not have a problem with the holiday abroad. If consent is not given then an application should be made to the court for permission.
In practice a court is likely to grant permission if the holiday is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. This would normally be the case if it is a country that is deemed safe to travel to and the accommodation is deemed safe (for example swimming pools with fences, alarms and safe balconies etc). If the other parent is deemed to have been unreasonable with regard to refusing to consent then a court may be willing to grant permission for the other parent to take a regular holiday abroad. The court will normally expect the other parent to have the same opportunity to enjoy a holiday abroad and an order can deal with arrangements such as the handover of the child’s passport at an appropriate time and deal with things like how often the child will telephone, Skype or FaceTime the other parent whilst away.
As a collaborative lawyer I generally recommend trying to agree the arrangements for the holidays well in advance. This enables both parents to take advantage of cheaper deals on holidays and means arrangements for childcare for the rest of the holiday, for those families where both parents are working, can be made and also booked well in advance.
Tips on how to work together
It is helpful if the parents reciprocate with information. A lot of people worry about their children going away without them whether it is for a school trip, with another family or with the other parent. It can be reassuring to know details like flight numbers and the address of the accommodation as well as an emergency contact number in the event of a problem either for the parent at home or abroad. If travelling on your own with a child do make sure that the hotel or holiday rep has a contact number for the other parent or another relative who can be contacted in the event that you are, for any reason, unable to care for your child (e.g. a medical emergency).
We spend a significant portion of our income on holidays but they can be times of stress. Early planning can, in my experience, reduce the stress and enable all to make plans they can enjoy.