Can I Take My Child Abroad On My Own?
The school holidays are approaching and if this is the first time you have been separated from your child’s other parent there may be some aspects to holiday time you need to consider.
If you have a child arrangements order which states that the child lives with you, you can take the child out of the country for up to 28 days without the consent of the other party under the law in England and Wales. If you don’t have this recorded in an order, you might need additional documentation.
Before You Go
It is good practice to make sure that the parent not travelling has the emergency contact details and details of the travel and accommodation. You should also arrange who will usually keep the children’s passports, who will keep them in date, and how and when the passports will be handed over and then returned after a holiday away.
Be prepared to answer queries about why you are travelling alone. Some countries require written confirmation from the non-travelling parent that they consent to the child travelling. Some have pro forma consent forms which much be completed in advance. Make sure you check the country-specific requirements before you go.
If you need consent but the other person is withholding it, you can apply for an order from the court which gives you permission. Consent should not be withheld unless there are demonstrable safeguarding concerns.
There can be particular difficulties if you and the child have different surnames. While this is increasingly common, border control officers can still be required to make checks. It is always better to bring as much documentation as you can with you. This may include the child’s birth certificate, your own ID which confirms your present and any previous names, a change of name deed for you and / or your child and any relevant consents and court orders.
If you have the children on your own for a several days or even weeks together they might not be used to spending such a long period without seeing the other parent, or sometimes other siblings. Any upset this may cause can be minimised by letting them know well in advance that they will be able to voice or video call the other parent when they need to.
Once away and having a great time, this might not be such an issue, but it is important that they know they have the option.
In some instances, travel abroad will not be in the child’s best interest. This might be because of the nature of the destination, or concerns you have about the care the child will have while they are away. There might also be legitimate concerns that the travelling parent will not return.
If need be, you can apply to court for a Prohibited Steps Order which stops the parent taking the child out of the country, and can include seizure of passports and a port alert to notify border control of the possible risk and to prevent the travel. This can be done urgently if the planned trip is imminent.