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Approaching holidays with children as separated parents

The thought of engaging in a summer holiday break with your child as a divorced or separated parent can be a tricky one to approach. Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors in Teesside outline what you can consider.

Can I take my child on a summer holiday?

With the Covid-19 restrictions continuing to relax, it is looking more likely that international travel for leisure purposes will be permitted this summer. Whilst this is music to the ears of most, if you are a separated parent hoping to take your child abroad this summer, you may feel a sense of apprehension at the thought of approaching your ex-partner with the suggestion of a holiday with your child. Holidays abroad should be something to look forward to and many parents miss out on such due to the simple fact that they are unaware of the laws surrounding this.

Going on holiday if there is an existing child arrangements order

If you have been in court proceedings previously and a child arrangements order exists, you will most likely be aware that the parent with whom the child is to live, as recorded in the order, does not require the consent of the other parent to take their child on holiday for a period of up to one month. This is provided for by the Children Act 1989 and this extends to international travel. Whilst the Children Act 1989 does not state that it is mandatory for a parent with the benefit of a ‘live with’ order to obtain the consent of the other parent, this does not mean that they should not discuss the prospective holiday with the other parent in an attempt to obtain consent.

Regardless of whether there is an existing order, as per the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is still a criminal offence to remove a child from the jurisdiction without the consent of the other parent even if that parent has the benefit of a ‘live with’ order. However, if the other parent has unreasonably refused consent or you had taken all reasonable steps to communicate your intentions of a holiday to the other parent, then this will act as a defence to the suggest of ‘abduction’. 

To avoid any unnecessary conflict arising, it is clearly always best to consult the other parent in situations such as this for the purposes of transparency and to promote effective co-parenting for the benefit of the child.

Going on holiday if there is no existing child arrangements order

If, however, there have been no previous proceedings and there is no pre-existing court order, you must consult all other parties with parental responsibility (ordinarily, this is usually just the other parent) and obtain consent before removing the child from the jurisdiction.

If your ex-partner is happy to provide consent to the child being taken on holiday, the consent should be in writing and duly signed by both parents. The contact details of your ex-partner who will not be attending the holiday should also be included. This is not a mandatory requirement by law, however, it is helpful to note purely for practical purposes in the event that there are any issues with customs officials at a UK or foreign border. Further, simply to avoid any delays in customs, it is also helpful to have documentation evidencing your relationship to the child such as the child’s birth certificate.

If your ex-partner does not agree to the child being taken on holiday, you may need to consider an application to court under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a specific issue order. To simplify, you will be asking the court to deal with the specific issue in dispute i.e. whether the child should go on holiday. The court will consider all facts of the case with reference to various factors found within section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, known as the ‘welfare checklist’ and will ultimately make an order that it considers to be in the best interests of the child.

What is the best way to approach the topic with my ex-partner?

As with all aspects of life, forward planning is crucial. By planning a holiday far in advance, this will allow you opportunity to provide your ex-partner with your suggested holiday plans, location, duration of holiday etc and this ultimately leaves you plenty of time to resolve any queries or concerns your ex-partner may have. This will also allow your ex-partner time to digest your suggested holiday plans and reflect on the fact that this will most likely be an enjoyable experience for the child.

If you have any queries, contact Tilly Bailey & Irvine’s Family Solicitors in Hartlepool, Wynyard, Stockton and Barnard Castle on 0333 444 4422 or make an online enquiry for free.