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Can my ex-partner take my child abroad to escape coronavirus?

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As family lawyers with an international client base, many of our family law clients have more than one country that they call ‘’home’’ or an overseas holiday home or extended family living abroad. Some separated or divorced parents who are worried about their children, or wanting to be with their family based overseas, have asked if they can take their child abroad to try to escape from Covid 19. Other parents have rung us expressing anxieties that their ex-partner is planning to take their child overseas, using the child’s asthmatic or other underlying health condition as an excuse to do so. In this blog we look at whether a separated or divorced parent can take a child abroad to escape coronavirus.

Online children and family law solicitors

In these difficult times the children and family law team  at OTS Solicitors are here to help you if you have a children law query. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form to set up a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment with one of our specialist children lawyers to get the help and legal advice you need to answer your family law questions on coronavirus and children law.

Covid 19 and taking children overseas 

When you are worried about your child’s health and safety or you want to return to your home country to hole up with your extended family during the coronavirus outbreak, it is easy to just want to go. You may think that your decision to leave the UK is totally logical because:

  • UK schools are closed anyway so it is an early summer holiday
  • There are no or fewer cases of Covid 19 in the country you are planning on travelling to
  • Where you are going has a better health care system and more testing is available
  • You are just bringing forward a trip that you had planned to make at a later date to see extended family.

Whatever your reason for wanting to leave the UK with your child, the first point to note is the government travel advice that says ‘’ all non-essential travel from the UK should be halted’’. That includes travelling to your overseas holiday home in much the same way that the UK government has said that people should not travel to their UK based second holiday homes but instead stay at their primary residence. It becomes a more difficult debate when you want to travel overseas with your child to see a relative who is unwell, though the government UK advice is to not see people from different households.

That may be the current UK government coronavirus advice but where do you stand legally if you or your ex-partner wants to take your child overseas during the Covid 19 outbreak?

The answer to that question depends on:

  • Is there an existing child arrangements order? If so, what does it say about your child being taken overseas?
  • If you are the child’s primary carer and you have a child arrangements order is your overseas trip for a holiday of less than four weeks duration?
  • Is your planned trip overseas with a view to the move abroad being permanent once you get there with your child?

Coronavirus and taking a child on holiday abroad

If your travel out of the UK with your child is temporary in nature then provided that there is a child arrangements order in place that says you are the child’s primary carer you can normally take your child abroad without first having to get the other parent’s agreement or a court order as long as the holiday is for less than four weeks.

The wording of child arrangements orders can be difficult to understand so it is best to take legal advice on whether you are allowed to go on holiday overseas with your child without first getting the other parent’s agreement or a court order.

Whether you legally need the other parent’s permission to take the child abroad it is sensible to tell them about the planned holiday and canvass their views. If you don’t then it may stop you from being able to co-parent your child together in the future or enjoy a working co-parenting relationship.

Even if you don’t need the other parent’s agreement to your planned overseas holiday with your child they could try to stop the holiday by applying to court for a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order to stop the holiday from taking place. Whether they would be successful in that application would depend on what the court thought was in the best interests of your child. The court would take into account the government overseas Covid 19 travel advice when determining whether the planned trip is in your child’s best interests.

Coronavirus and taking a child abroad to live

You or your ex-partner may have concluded that the UK is no longer the place to bring up your child and that your family would be safer overseas. If you plan to move abroad to live then if your child is ordinarily resident in England then you will need:

  • The other parent’s written agreement to the move (and anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child) or
  • A court order giving you permission to take the child overseas to live.

Even if you are the child’s main or primary carer and you have a child arrangements order, you can't just leave the UK with your child intending the move to be permanent. If you are a parent who suspects that their ex-partner wants to take a child overseas then you can apply for an order to prevent it, such as a prohibited steps order or specific issue order. Don’t worry about court offices being closed because of coronavirus. The family court is still hearing urgent court applications and, in appropriate cases, court hearings can take place over the phone or via video conferencing.

When deciding a court application asking for permission to take a child abroad to live (or a court application to stop the other parent moving overseas with the child) the court will make its decision based on what is in the child’s best interests. In some cases, because of coronavirus, the court may see the good reasons why you want to move abroad with child but conclude that the timing isn’t right because of the risks of Covid 19 and the extra difficulties that would be involved in arranging regular contact with the parent and extended family left behind in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online children and family law solicitors

If you have questions about child relocation or overseas trips in these unusual times the children and family law team of specialist children law lawyers at OTS Solicitors are here to help you and answer with your children law questions. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our ONLINE ENQUIRY FORM so we can set up a Skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you.

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