What can you do if you want to take your child on holiday, but the other parent disagrees?
As we begin the summer holidays, the question of whether you can take your children abroad on holiday tends to come up in our new mediation enquiries.
The ideal scenario for parents who have separated is that they both agree where the child will stay during the summer holidays, when they will be going on holiday and what the arrangements will be. It is a good idea to let the other parent know:
· Who will be travelling with you
· Details of any flight numbers / ferries etc
· Where you will be staying and when
· What arrangements can be made for them to contact you
· What arrangements are in place for the child to contact the other parent
· The arrangements for the children on return from the holiday
This can be difficult though, especially where the relationship between the parents is not great.
So, what can you do if you have a holiday planned and the other parent does not agree that your children should go, or if other parent is planning on taking the children on holiday and you do not agree with it?
The first thing to ascertain is whether you have a current child arrangement order stating the children are primarily resident with you. If there is, then you can take your children abroad for up to 28 days, without the permission of the other parent.
If you do not have this, then you will need the permission of anyone else with parental responsibility. The mother will automatically have parental responsibility for the children and the father will have it if:
· He was married to the mother at the time of the birth
· He was not married but his name is on the birth certificate (post December 2003)
· He has subsequently been granted parental responsibility from the court
There are separate rules for civil partners.
In the majority of such cases that we mediate on, one party wants to take the children on holiday, there is no court order in place but they both have parental responsibility. The other party disagrees. What can you do?
The issue will depend on where you want to take the children. If you are planning a holiday in England & Wales and you are due to have the children for that period of time anyway, you can go anywhere within England and Wales and there is very little the other parent can do to stop you. Although, out of respect you should of course let them know.
If you want to take them abroad, you will need the permission of the other parent. In this case you can apply to the court to allow the children to be taken outside of England & Wales. The first step is to try and agree between yourselves. If this is not possible, you will need to attend a MIAM appointment (in most cases) with a family mediator. If mediation does not go ahead or breaks down you can then apply to the court. Clearly you will need to act quickly to ensure an order is in place, well before the planned holiday takes place.
The court will consider many factors in their decision, not least the wishes of the child, their age and any health issues or additional needs they may have. They will also consider any safety concerns and the capability of each parent.
If you want to stop the other party taking them abroad and they are intending to do so, you will need to apply for a prohibitive steps order. Again, you will normally need to have attended a MIAM appointment to compete the relevant form for court.
Depending on which country you visit and their entry requirements, you may need to carry proof of parental responsibility, especially if the child has a different surname on their passport. On leaving Florida several years ago, my family were all ushered into separate rooms to ensure my daughter (who has a different surname to me) was not being abducted and was travelling with her actual father….. Quite scary for a 40 year old man, let alone a 6 year old girl!
If you are travelling abroad it is useful to take with you:
· A signed letter of agreement from the other parent (or anyone else) with parental responsibility, including their contact details.
· Proof of your parental responsibility, such as birth certificate, court order or similar
· Copy of any change of name deed for you or the child
· Copy of any order from the court (if you have one)
If you do need to make a quick application to the court and mediation is not likely to take place, we offer an online MIAM service through our sister company, Surrey Mediation Service.
The MIAM can take place and the relevant form signed and sent to you by email, all for a cost of £60.
Call 0330 999 0959 or click here for more details on this new, faster service.