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Overseas Travel With Your Children After a Separation or Divorce

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Are you planning a quick trip abroad to catch some extra sun or an extended trip to see family? If you are thinking about overseas travel with your children after a separation or divorce you need to consider UK family law.

In this guide, our family law solicitors answer some of your most common questions on overseas travel with your children after your separation or divorce.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For family law legal advice call our expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

Traveling with children

Most parents say that travelling abroad with children can be a bit of a nightmare, especially with delayed or cancelled flights. However, your problems can be compounded if you are trying to take your children overseas after your separation or divorce.  Here are a few examples of what can go wrong:

  • Your ex-partner fears that you are planning to abduct the children and you will not return to the UK with them. This is a common issue if you are living in the UK on a spouse visa or family visa or work visa or if you are an international family with close ties to other countries or if you have dual citizenship
  • You do not realise that you need the agreement of your former partner to take the children abroad on holiday and the holiday is stopped either through your ex-partner applying for a prohibited steps order or, at the last minute, at the airport at the request of your former partner by police or border officials
  • Border officials are not willing to agree to your travelling with your children as you have different surnames and they are concerned that they would not be doing their job properly if they were not thorough
  • You and your ex-husband or wife do not communicate about your holiday plans and you end up together in the same resort

Which parents need permission from their ex-partner to travel abroad with their children?

Most parents need permission to take their child abroad for any length of time. Permission is needed from anyone with parental responsibility for the child.

All mothers have parental responsibility. All married fathers have parental responsibility. The majority of unmarried fathers have parental responsibility. If you are not sure if you have parental responsibility, or if your ex-partner has parental responsibility, it is best to check before you book your trip abroad.


There is one main exception to the rule that you need permission to take your children overseas. If you have a child arrangement order that says you are the children’s primary carer and that your child lives with you then you don’t need the permission of your former partner, or anyone else with parental responsibility provided that your proposed trip is for 28 days or less. If you aren’t sure if your child arrangement order lets you go overseas with your children without first getting permission it is best to get a children lawyer to check the precise wording of the court order. Call us on 0203 959 9123.

Permission is important because if you try to travel without it then your ex-partner could accuse you of child abduction, That could result in criminal charges as well as a children law court application.

If you do need permission to travel overseas with your children remember that:

  • It is best to get permission put in writing so you have evidence of the agreement. You should take the evidence with you in case you need to produce it. Evidence does not have to be a letter from your former partner’s solicitor. It can be as simple as an email or text from your ex-partner
  • If you cannot get permission you can apply to the family court for an order permitting you to either take your children on holiday overseas or, if you are planning a long-term move, permitting you to take the children overseas permanently. If you secure a court order it is best to take the court order with you on your travels in case you need to produce evidence that you have the right to take your children overseas
  • You should not assume you do not need permission because your children are not British citizens or because you are in the UK on a temporary visa, such as a spouse visa or skilled worker visa. If your children are habitually resident in the UK then UK law on taking your children overseas applies to them
  • It is best not to book a holiday until you either have a written agreement or a court order
  • Agreement has to be informed. That means you should give your former partner enough information about your holiday so they can make an informed decision. Agreeing to a holiday abroad can be very broad – is it to somewhere like Spain or to a country where the Foreign Office has advised against travel? Ideally, you should give information about your planned resort and flights so that your ex-partner is reassured that they know where you and the children are in case of reports of accidents

What documents are needed when a parent travels overseas with their children?

You may think that it will never happen to you but it might. Even if your ex-partner is laid back you may find that a border official wants evidence of your right to take your child overseas. They are entitled to ask as child abduction does occur but can be prevented by keen border officials.

When travelling overseas with your children as a separated or divorced parent it is best to take:

  • Evidence that you have the other parent’s agreement or a court order
  • Evidence of your relationship with your children. This is particularly important if they have a different surname to you. Evidence could be their birth certificate and your marriage certificate and divorce order, or change of name deed, showing how the surnames tie in

How can OTS Solicitors help?

Our specialist family law solicitors can help you with:

  • Getting the agreement of your ex-partner to an overseas holiday or relocation abroad
  • Immigration status issues and travel overseas with your children
  • Holiday orders
  • International relocation orders
  • Parental responsibility advice
  • Child arrangement order applications
  • Prohibited steps order applications to prevent travel overseas
  • Child abduction advice

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For children law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

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