Summer Holidays: Could You Be At Risk Of Abducting Your Own Child?

With the summer holidays in full swing, many parents are planning trips away with their children; for most, this is a natural part of parenthood, but if you’re separated or divorced from your child’s mother or father, you could be at risk of technically abducting your own child.

Melanie Bridgen, Partner at Nelsons, explains the legalities and risks of taking your child on holiday abroad when you have separated from the other parent.

“If you are considering a holiday abroad or outside England and Wales you will need to make sure that you have the legal authority to do this. If you already have a court order you should check what this says and ensure that there are no restrictions.

“Just because you have parental responsibility does not automatically mean that you can take your child on holiday outside England and Wales without the agreement of the other parent. It is always best practice to get written permission, especially if there is any chance that verbal permission will be withdrawn before travel.

“Without the correct permissions in place you could find yourself being asked some awkward questions at the port or airport and in the very worse case being detained, questioned and possibly arrested for child abduction.”

What Happens If Both Parents Have Parental Responsibility?

“If both parents have Parental Responsibility you may still need to have consent from the other parent to take your child on holiday outside England and Wales if you are travelling without the other parent. It is recommended that you get consent in writing and keep this with your travel documents. This does not have to be in a particular format – a signed letter, text or email will usually be sufficient to show consent. If there is any doubt having the consent witnessed by an independent professional third party is preferred, a document witnessed by each parents’ solicitor is better and a court order giving consent is the gold standard.

“If the other parent refuses to give permission, you can apply to the court. If this is necessary then you will need to give the court a full account of the proposed holiday with documentary evidence if this is available.

“Alternatively, if you are concerned about your ex-partner taking the child out of the country you can apply to the court to prevent them from doing so.”

What Do I Do If I Don’t Have Parental Responsibility?

“If you do not have parental responsibility, you will need to ask for permission from the parent that does have parental responsibility before taking your child out of the jurisdiction on holiday.

“If they refuse to provide permission, you can make an application to the court. You will need to provide full details of the holiday; when and where you plan to go, why and for how long.  These details are needed because some parents will use a holiday as an excuse to take the child out of England and Wales, and not return them.”

What If I Have Sole Parental Responsibility?

“If you have sole parental responsibility for your child you may not need permission from the other parent to take the child on holiday but you should always check the position before making your booking, especially if there is not a court order in place.

“If you are unsure of your parental rights and responsibilities, or have concerns about your child’s safety it’s important you seek legal advice.”