Can I take my child abroad on holiday without the other parent’s consent?

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Technically if you want to take a child abroad the other parent is opposed to it, your right to do so depends on whether each parent has ‘parental responsibility’ and whether there are any court orders that could stop you.

If you end up in court the child’s best interests will be central to all decisions.  If the court hearing is simply about taking a child on holiday, it’s most likely to be allowed. However, the court must be satisfied that it is in the child’s best interests and that there isn’t a risk of failure to return. Removal abroad to live permanently which is opposed by the other parent will be a much more difficult application to make and succeed in.

In reality, whatever the situation, it’s best to try to involve the other parent and make decisions jointly if at all possible. Children who see their parents cooperating are likely to be well adjusted and happier than if their parents are constantly arguing about what’s going to happen with them.

The role of parental responsibility

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is a legal concept that includes the rights, duties and obligations a parent has to a child. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility when a child is born, as does the father if he is married to the mother. Unmarried fathers whose children are born after 1st December 2003 will also have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate. A father can gain parental responsibility by marrying the mother (before or after the child’s birth) or through an order of the court or by signing a parental responsibility agreement.

If both parents have parental responsibility?

If both parents have parental responsibility and there are no court orders in place, neither can take the child out of the UK without the written consent of the other. If there is a court order in force, for example one parent has a residence order or a child arrangements order stating the child lives with them, he or she can take the child abroad for 28 days without the written consent of the other parent. For everyone else, though, even short trips abroad need the permission of everyone who has parental responsibility.

If only one parent has parental responsibility?

If one parent alone has parental responsibility, and there is no court order, the permission of the other parent is not strictly necessary, but a father without parental responsibility could make a court application asking the court to grant him parental responsibility. If granted, he could then object to the child being taken abroad, so it’s best to avoid confrontation that could lead to a time consuming and potentially expensive court case.

Try to agree and be reasonable

Trying to agree the arrangements with the other parent shows responsible parenting. If going abroad means that contact with the other parent is going to be missed, it would be reasonable to offer extra contact to make up for the missed time. Try to agree the arrangements well in advance so that if consent is being unreasonably withheld, a court application can be made if necessary.

What if grandparents want to take grandchildren on a foreign holiday?

If grandparents want to take a child out of the country they need the permission from both parents, if both parents have parental responsibility.

See more answers to common questions in the family law advice hub.