Can Separated Parents Take Their Children on Holiday to Qatar and Dubai? banner


Can Separated Parents Take Their Children on Holiday to Qatar and Dubai?

  • Posted on

With the Easter school holidays fast approaching and with parents contemplating their plans for the long school summer holidays, in this blog we answer a question that frequently crops up, namely ‘’I am separated from my ex-partner, so can I take the children on holiday to Qatar and Dubai?’’ The international family and children lawyers at OTS Solicitors get asked questions about taking children overseas to live or on holiday on a daily basis. Whether it is a holiday to the Far East or elsewhere in the world it can be a real worry if a parent wants to take a child to what children lawyers call a ‘’non-convention country’’.

International children law solicitors

If you need help and advice about whether your ex-partner can take your child away on holiday or any other aspect of family and children law then the friendly and approachable team of children lawyers at London based OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

The case of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid

The case of his highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid and the princess Haya Bint Al Hussein and their children has hit the news headlines because the court made a series of findings against the father in a finding of fact hearing. The court has authorised the publication of its judgements in the case. Although the facts aren’t likely to be repeated in everyday London life, talk of risks of child abduction in the run up to the Easter and summer school holidays can raise alarm bells for separated international families where one or both parents has family connections and wants to take the children back ‘’home’’ for the holidays.

Whilst it is understandable that most parents, whether they are separated or not, want to travel with their children to their home countries to see extended family and enjoy the culture, it is equally understandable that the other parent may fear child abduction and that they risk never seeing the child again if the holiday is allowed to go ahead.

Your worries about child abduction

In some family scenarios it isn’t surprising that a separated parent is worried about their ex-husband or wife taking the children overseas on holiday and not returning with them. However, it is equally understandable that if you have foreign ties and family who live overseas that you will want your children to grow up knowing and appreciating their heritage. Most of us would agree that is best achieved by the children visiting the country and meeting their extended family, provided of course that it is safe for them to do so and that any risk of child abduction is assessed and can be safely managed. That then leads to the question of who assesses the risk of child abduction and determines what amounts to a manageable risk.

Who assesses the risk of child abduction?

If you are worried about your child being taken on holiday and not returned then you can:

  • Ask the family court to make a child arrangements order naming you as the residential parent
  • Ask the court to make a prohibited steps order to stop your ex-husband or ex-wife or ex-partner from taking the children on a specific overseas holiday or to a specific country. You may, for example not object to your ex-partner taking the children to Europe but have real issues with the children going to stay in the Far East or the Philippines
  • Ask the court to put safeguards in place to minimise the risk of your child not being returned to the UK after an overseas holiday.

If you can't reach an agreement over foreign travel with the children then ultimately if one of you starts family and children law court proceedings it will be up to a family law judge to assess the risk of child abduction and determine if the risk can be managed, and if so, how best to do that.

When London children law solicitors are advising separated parents and judges are assessing the risk of child abduction one of the first things that they will consider is whether the risk of child abduction relates to a convention or non-convention country. Sometimes it isn’t easy to assess that as one parent just has a general fear of child abduction and is worried that their ex-partner will ‘’just disappear with the children’’ whereas in other family scenarios the perceived risk in that a mother or father will take the child to a country where they either originated from or where extended family lives. In that situation, it is important to look at whether the country is what children law solicitors and family courts call a ‘’convention country’’ or a ‘’non-convention country’’.

What is a convention country?

A convention country is a country that is signed up to the Hague Convention. If a country is a signatory to the Hague Convention then if a parent takes a child to that country there are legal arrangements in place to enable the parent seeking the child’s return to the UK to do so.

Whilst there is always a risk that if a child is taken to any overseas country they may not be ordered to return to England that risk is far lower if the country that the child is taken to upholds the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.

What is a non-convention country?

A non-convention country  is a country that isn’t signed up to the Hague Convention and therefore doesn’t have any legal arrangements in place to return children to England (or the country they were taken from) in the case of parental child abduction.

London children law solicitors stress that just because a country is a non-convention country doesn’t mean that its court in that country will not order the return of your child to England if your former partner takes the child on holiday there and refuses to return the child at the end of the holiday or takes the child to live there without first getting your written agreement to do so or a court order.

However, if a country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention your children law solicitors and the court has to far more carefully assess the particular laws of the country where your former partner is proposing to take your child on holiday to see if:

  • The country has laws in place to return a child and how likely such an order would be made
  • Whether safeguards can be put in place to minimise any risk of a child not being returned to England after a holiday or being abducted to that country.

The case M (Children) (Non-Hague Convention State) [2020] EWCA Civ 277

The recent court of appeal case of M (Children) (Non-Hague Convention State) is of interest to children law and child abduction solicitors as it answered the question ‘’ Can separated parents take their children on holiday to Qatar and Dubai?’’ Of course no court case can answer the question of whether your child, in your family circumstances, should be able to travel to Qatar and Dubai, but it does give useful things for parents, children lawyers and family judges to consider.

In the case of Re M, the mother is a national of Qatar, and the father is a national of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Dubai. The husband and wife had two children.  The mother moved to live in England on an Investor visa and was accompanied by the two children. This was agreed by the father. After the mother’s move to the UK the marriage broke down. Issues arose with trust between the parents, with neither parent wanting the other parent to take the children to Qatar or Dubai for fear the children wouldn’t be returned to England to live. Neither country is a signatory to the Hague Convention. In the court proceedings an expert on Middle Eastern law said an English court order relating to the children wouldn’t be recognised nor enforced in a court in the UAE or Qatar.

The mother applied for a prohibited steps order as she said the father had made threats to remove the children from England. The father objected to the mother taking the children to Qatar. The judge gave permission for each parent to take holidays with the children to their respective home countries provided that written agreements were lodged and made into court orders in the UAE court and the Qatar court. The mother appealed for a variety of reasons including that the judge hadn’t properly assessed the risk of child abduction and the English court order wouldn’t protect the children in Dubai.

The court of appeal has decided that the mother’s appeal should not be allowed and that the father can take the children on holiday to Dubai (and the mother can take the children to Qatar) provided that they both comply with the requirements to secure a mirror order in Dubai and Qatar.

The decision was made because the court of appeal judge said the court was entitled to conclude that an order in Dubai was sufficient safeguard against the risk of child abduction as the court, when deciding what was in the best interests of the children, had carried out an assessment of the risk of child abduction, the consequence for the children if either of them were abducted, and the benefits to the children of visiting each country and the available safeguards, comprising undertakings by the parents and mirror court orders of the English order in Qatar and Dubai. 

You may wonder why the English court had the jurisdiction to decide what children law arrangements are in the best interests of two children born to non-UK citizens, with the children’s mother residing in the UK on an Investor visa. The English court had jurisdiction to make orders in relation to the two children as they were both habitually resident in England, a matter that wasn’t disputed by either parent.

The case of Re M flags up the importance of:

  • Getting expert evidence on the family and children law in the country where you fear the children may be abducted to
  • Being willing to offer undertakings or promises to the English court that could be enforceable in the face of non-compliance
  • Being willing to secure mirror court orders in the countries where the holidays were planned.

In addition, as it can take time to secure expert evidence and to obtain mirror orders in another court jurisdiction it is best to plan ahead and try to seek the other parent’s agreement to the proposed holiday, and if that isn’t forthcoming, to apply to the court for a child arrangements order or for a specific issue order.

Don’t forget that every family is different. In another family, the court may have ruled that the risks of child abduction were sufficiently low to not require mirror orders in Dubai and Qatar and in another family situation may have granted a prohibited steps order to prevent the children being taken out of the court’s jurisdiction.

The case of Re M highlights the importance of legal advice and the need to act urgently if you fear child abduction and how it is best to instruct a children law solicitor who can secure the expert evidence that you need to best present your case either for a child arrangements order, specific issue order or prohibited steps order or to marshal arguments about why it is the child’s best interests to travel and learn about their family background and heritage.

London children law solicitors 

If you are worried about your children being taken away on a holiday overseas or if you need a court holiday order after a separation or divorce  or representation in child arrangements order and specific issue order proceedings our specialist family and children law team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 to speak to a specialist children law solicitor or click here and complete our online enquiry form.

    Get in touch

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.