Now that Christmas is behind us, attention is turning to summer holidays. This can be a cause of conflict for separated parents who wish to take their child abroad.
For a child to be taken out of the country, both parents must give their consent. Removing a child without that consent is, on the face of it, child abduction.
So what is the best way to address this issue, particularly in circumstances where you think there may be disagreement? Here is some guidance about how to approach this
1. Ask. If you want to take your child abroad raise it with the other parent as soon as possible. If they agree, get that consent in writing by way of a letter or email.
2. Plan. Be very clear about your travel arrangements in terms of where you intend to go, how you will travel there, where you will stay once you are there and dates and times of travel. Provide this information to the other parent at the time you ask for consent if you are able to. This will help them to make an informed decision and should remove any suspicion on their part. The more open you can be, the better.
3. Practicalities. If consent is given agree when the passport is to be made available and when other items such as clothes, medication and suitcases will be provided. Do not leave it until the last minute to obtain the passport because if it is not handed over, you will have insufficient time to take steps to obtain it. You may also want to check the expiry date of the passport in case it needs to be renewed. Again, do that ahead of time.
4. Contact. Make sure that the other parent has contact details for you whilst you are abroad in case of emergency. Also agree whether there are to be any telephone calls between the child and the parent at home during the course of the holiday. If so, it may be wise to agree exactly when they will take place. Confirming that you have arrived safely at your holiday destination is a good idea. Likewise, if there are any delays, particularly on the return journey, make sure the parent at home is notified.
5. Court. If the other parent will not give their consent to you taking your child on holiday, your only option then is to apply to court. You should do this as early as possible so that there is time for the court to consider the case and make a decision ahead of your proposed departure date. Therefore if you are looking to travel this summer, you need to know now if the other parent will give their consent. If it is not forthcoming take advice from a family solicitor at an early stage so that the case is managed for you and an application is made in good time. An application can also be made if the passport is not handed over or if the parent changes their mind. This is why it is important to agree matters in writing.
Please also remember that even if you have an order stating that the child lives with you, you are restricted in terms of the time that you can take the child out of the country without consent. It is good practice and courteous to the other party to obtain their consent in any event and to share details of travel arrangements as that leads to a good working relationship.
If you have a different surname from your child consider keeping a copy of your marriage certificate or decree absolute with you which will confirm a previous surname. The consent from the other parent should confirm the surnames of relevant parties as this will help to avoid problems at borders.