Last week we had threats of floods and torrential rain in parts of the UK and so thoughts are turning to getting out of London and to taking the children to sunnier climes on their annual summer holiday. Now is the time to act fast if you are a separated parent and want to take your children abroad on holiday this summer. Here is a guide from child custody solicitors.
If you are a newly separated parent, you may just assume that things are just the same as when you were married or in a relationship with your partner; you can just hop on a plane with the kids during your contact week, having grabbed the passports and packed the suitcases.
UK children law is not as simple and as straightforward as most parents assume. After all, you would think that if it is agreed or ordered that you should look after your child during a specified week that you should not then need permission to go abroad on holiday. However, in some family situations, you do need agreement or a court order. What is more, the consequences of not taking legal advice on child custody and holidays abroad might be an expensive mistake and distressing for your child if they miss out on their holiday abroad.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
OTS Solicitors are London based child custody solicitors and advise on all aspects of family and child custody law.
The family law
team has particular experience in international child custody 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.
If you need legal advice on child custody or legal help to take your child abroad on holiday or if you want to stop a planned holiday as you fear child abduction, then call the children law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced family and child custody solicitors.
Agreement and taking children abroad on holiday
Child custody solicitors say that whether a mother or father of a child legally needs the agreement of the other parent (or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child) before taking the child abroad on holiday all depends on whether there is a child arrangements order or residence order in place.
However, best practice says that whether a parent has the legal right to take a child abroad on holiday it is still preferable to let the other parent know about your plans and to give them some information. For example, about your destination, flights and accommodation so that the other parent knows what country their child is in and how to contact you in an emergency either at home or in the country you are staying in. After all, if they go abroad with your child you would probably want to be provided with similar information about your child’s whereabouts.
Child law solicitors acknowledge that there is a big difference between informing your ex-partner about your planned trip abroad with the children and having to get their written permission to take the children away on an overseas holiday.
When you don’t need agreement to take a child abroad on holiday
If a parent has a child arrangements order (also referred to as a residence order or child custody order) and the court order says that the child lives with one parent, UK children law says you can take your child abroad on holiday without needing to get the other parent’s written agreement or a court order. This is if the holiday is for four weeks or less.
If you are planning to go abroad for longer than four weeks you still need the other parent’s written agreement or court order giving you permission to take the child abroad on holiday, even if you have a child arrangements order or custody of your child.
The wording of child arrangements order can be confusing. If you already have a child arrangements order, it is sensible to check that the wording of the court order does mean that you do not need agreement or a court order giving you permission to go on an overseas holiday with your child.
Applying for an order to go on holiday abroad with a child
If you do not have a child arrangements order saying that your child lives with you, you only need a court order for permission to take your child abroad on holiday if the other parent (and anyone else with parental responsibility for the child) will not agree to the holiday.
If you cannot get agreement after providing your ex-partner with information about your holiday plans and trying to give any reasonable reassurances, then you can make a court application.
Sometimes it is worth trying to communicate with an ex-partner and compromising on your plans or holiday destination. For example, your ex-partner may have no issue with your taking your child on holiday to Spain for a week but would have an issue with taking a young child on a ski trip or to a country where they would worry about the child’s safety, for example because of historical terrorist atrocities in Egypt or Tunisia. You may be right in thinking that their fears may be completely unjustified or over the top but unless you have family connections to a country you may think that getting agreement to a holiday in the sun that the parent thinks is “safe” is easier than making a court application.
If despite information about your planned holiday and providing reassurances about phone contact whilst on holiday etc., you still can't get your ex-partner’s agreement to your planned holiday abroad with your child then a court application will be necessary.
Sometimes parents think that they will take a risk or call the other parent’s bluff and go on holiday abroad with a child without the other parent’s agreement or court order. Child custody solicitors warn against this as you could be stopped at the airport, creating embarrassment and stress for your child as well as throwing away the cost of the holiday. In addition, you could face accusations of child abduction or just find it a lot harder to see your child in future and impossible to get an agreement or court order to take your child abroad on future occasions.
If you are worried that you have left it too late to make a court application for permission to take your child abroad on holiday this summer then speak to a child custody solicitor urgently about whether you need court permission and how quickly they can secure an order for you. If you do need a court order, a child custody solicitor can quickly start the court application process to secure an order but you will need to act fast if you want to get a court order to take your child abroad on holiday this summer.
Sometimes a letter from a children law solicitor is sufficient to get the other parent to agree, in writing, to the holiday abroad with your child going ahead. Alternatively, you may be able to reach an agreement using family mediation. Court rules say that family mediation normally needs to be attempted before court proceedings can be started.
Objecting to an ex-partner taking children abroad on holiday
If you genuinely fear that your ex-partner is going to take your child abroad and not return with them, or if you have other grounds for concern, you can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order or specific issue order to stop your ex-partner taking your child abroad on holiday. Alternatively, you can oppose their application for permission to take the child on holiday.
Child custody law solicitors recommend taking child legal advice before making a court application for a specific issue order or prohibited steps order so that a solicitor can look at the reasons for objection and present the most compelling case for you.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
OTS Solicitors are London based child custody solicitors and advise on all aspects of family and child custody law. They know that when it comes to sorting out contact or getting permission to take a child abroad on holiday speed is important.
The family law
team has lots of experience in helping parents obtain child arrangements orders and orders granting permission to take a child abroad on holiday.
So, if you need legal advice on child custody or help to take your child abroad on holiday or if you want to stop a planned holiday because you fear child abduction then call the children law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced family and child custody solicitors.