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Can you stop a child from being taken abroad on holiday?

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With the school Christmas holidays fast approaching many parents are making plans for their children over the holiday season, including booking winter ski trips and overseas holidays to see family members who live abroad. If you are a separated or a divorced parent when it comes to planning a trip abroad it is not just your child’s wishes and preferences that you need to consider and cater for. If you are contemplating a holiday outside of the UK you may also need the permission of your ex-partner or ex-husband or ex-wife before you can take your child abroad on holiday.

Top London children solicitors are often challenged as to why a parent needs the agreement of an estranged or divorced parent to take their child away on a holiday abroad, especially when the trip is planned during the parent’s own access or contact time with the child. After all if it is their agreed or court ordered time with the child how can the other parent interfere with their plans? Equally some parents are horrified that a parent might not need their consent to take a child overseas if there is an existing court order in place. A parent’s fear can stem from all the newspaper and media reports of children going abroad on supposedly short trips with a parent and then the parent and child not returning to the UK or the child being left with extended family in the parent’s country of origin.

The best London children solicitors find that there is a surge in enquiries about parents taking children abroad on holiday before the long summer holiday and the winter break, when everyone’s thoughts turn to home and extended family.

Can you stop a parent from taking their child abroad on holiday?

If you ask a top London children solicitor if a ‘’ parent can stop the other parent from taking their child on holiday ‘’ then you will probably be asked a series of questions before any specialist children law legal advice is given. That is because to answer the query ‘’can a parent stop an ex-partner from taking their child on holiday ’’ a London children solicitor will need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • Are there any children court orders in relation to the child? Does either parent have a custody order (also known as a residence order or a child arrangements order) in relation to the child?
  • Does any existing children court order specify if either or both parents can take the child abroad on holiday and, if so, are there any conditions imposed, for example the country that the child can be taken to or the length of the holiday ?
  • What are the parent’s specific holiday plans? How long is the holiday for and where will the child be staying?
  • If relevant, who else will be accompanying the child on holiday? (sometimes the objection to a holiday abroad is more about a parent  taking their new partner or the partner’s children on holiday with them rather than an objection to the holiday itself )
  • Will the planned holiday impact on the other parent’s contact or access time with the child? If so, has the parent who is planning the holiday offered alternative contact time?
  • If the holiday is abroad are there any child abduction concerns and, if so, are there real and genuine grounds for concern about child abduction?
  •  Have there been any previous occasions where a parent has withheld contact before or after a holiday?
  • Are there any particular worries about the specific holiday, for example, is the holiday destination somewhere that the Foreign Office suggests that UK citizens should avoid travelling to? If there are concerns about potential child abduction is the holiday destination a country that is or is not a member of the Hague Convention. Is the holiday thought to be unsuitable given the child’s age or health, for example a trek through the Amazon with an asthmatic child?  
  • Are there any particular concerns about the holiday dates? For example , a ski trip over the Christmas period or a holiday booking that would result in a child missing mock examinations at school ;  
  • Does the child already know about the proposed holiday? Do they desperately want to go on the holiday?

These are just some of the questions that a top London children solicitor should ask before they are able to give definitive advice on whether a parent will need to get the other parent’s agreement to them taking their child abroad on holiday, and if agreement is not forthcoming, how likely it is that a court will make a court order allowing the holiday to take place, notwithstanding the other parent’s objection to the child going on an overseas trip. 

Stopping a parent from taking a child abroad on holiday

If a parent has a court order saying that he or she is the main or  primary carer of the child (such as a custody order, residence order or child arrangements order) then unless there are any other types of court order in place (such as a specific issue order or prohibited steps order to stop overseas holidays) then the primary carer will be able to take the child on holiday for a period of up to 4 weeks without first having to get the permission of the non-primary carer parent or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child.

If a parent is really worried about a foreign holiday they can still apply to court for a specific issue order or prohibited steps order to try and stop the holiday from going ahead. The court will make its  decision about whether the child should be allowed to go on the overseas trip based on what the court thinks is in the best interests of the child.

If a parent takes a child abroad on holiday without the other parent’s agreement (if they need it for a holiday of under 4 week’s duration) or court order then they might be guilty of the offence of child abduction.

Should a parent object to their child going on holiday?

That is always a near impossible question for a top London children solicitor to answer as so much depends on why there is a parental objection to the overseas trip and the perception of risk. It has to be a parent’s decision, guided by the best London children solicitors’ advice, on whether to object to a child going on an overseas trip based on the reasons why the parent opposes the holiday. Sometimes the fears of child abduction to a non-Hague Convention country are such that a parent feels they have no option but to make a court application to stop the holiday. At other times top London children solicitor negotiations can resolve holiday and contact arrangements without either parent needing to make a court application.

OTS Solicitors advise on all aspects of family and children law and have particular experience in international children law and child abduction cases, including applications to take children abroad on holiday or to take a child abroad to relocate permanently out of the UK. OTS Solicitors has a very wide geographical client base as a result of their immigration law expertise. Please get in touch with us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced family and children solicitors.

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