Taking a child on holiday  – is consent needed?

As we rapidly approach the summer school holidays, family lawyers are often faced with the question of whether one parent needs to seek permission from the other parent when taking a child on holiday.

The first question I ask is whether the other parent has parental responsibility for the child. If so, then consent is necessary.

Fathers will only have parental responsibility if they were married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate as the father (from December 2013); or if they have a court order that has granted them parental responsibility.

Mothers are automatically granted parental responsibility.

When a Child Arrangements Order is in force (or a Residence Order) that states that the child lives with you, then you are in the fortunate position of being able to take the child on holiday for up to 28 days without the other parent’s consent.

What happens if you don’t obtain consent?

If you have not obtained permission from the other parent and you are legally obliged to do so, then the criminal offence of child abduction may have been committed, if the child is taken out of the country. Anyone found guilty of such an offence can be fined, imprisoned or both.

What if consent is not provided? Can you still go on holiday?

Why was consent withheld? If it is withheld without a good reason and you believe it is in the child’s best interests to go on holiday, an application can be made to court for a specific issue order.

How quickly can the court deal with this?

An application for a Specific Issue Order can be applied for on an emergency basis if travel plans have already been made. The court will want to speak to both parties before an order is made. If it is not urgent, then the court can take a few weeks to list the matter for a hearing and it is therefore advisable to get an application into court as soon as it becomes evident that the other party will not change their mind.

If you are the parent who is refusing permission because you believe it is in the child’s best interests not to go on holiday, or if you feel the child is unlikely to return, then you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order which, if granted, will prevent the removal of the child from the court’s jurisdiction.

Tips to try to obtain permission

  • Provide details of the holiday to the other parent as soon as possible, such as return flight details and address when on holiday.
  • Try to arrange additional contact to replace any contact that will be missed whilst the child is on holiday
  • Can telephone/video contact take place whilst the child is on holiday?
  • Provide contact details in case of an emergency
  • The other party is more likely to consent if you agree to them also taking the child away on holiday

If you wish to discuss your case and how Coley & Tilley can help you in obtaining consent for you to take your child on holiday, please contact Sandeep Sandhu (Associate Solicitor) on 0121 643 5531 or via email at sandeep.sandhu@coleyandtilley.co.uk. We offer a free initial appointment at our city centre office.

More information about the services that we offer can be found on our website at www.coleyandtilley.co.uk.

Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice. Specialist legal advice is recommended in relation to your own case.