Do I need consent to take my child on holiday?

Blog | Family

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With the school summer holidays fast approaching, this is a question which tends to crop up a lot for family solicitors.

What’s the law?

You must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility (PR) for a child or from a court before taking the child abroad.

Who has PR?

You automatically have parental responsibility if you’re the child’s mother, but you still need the permission of anyone else with parental responsibility before you take the child abroad.

A father usually has parental responsibility if he’s either:

  • married to the child’s mother

  • listed on the birth certificate (after a certain date, depending on which part of the UK the child was born in)

Exceptions

You can take a child abroad for 28 days without getting permission if a child arrangement order (Court Order) says the child must live with you unless a court order says you can’t.

What evidence do I need to show the other parent consents?

A letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child is usually enough to show you’ve got permission to take them abroad.

You might be asked for the letter at a UK or foreign border, or if there’s a dispute about taking a child abroad. The letter should include the other person’s contact details and details about the trip.

It also helps if you’ve:

  • evidence of your relationship with the child, e.g. a birth or adoption certificate

  • a divorce or marriage certificate, if you are a single parent but your family name is different from the child’s.  Check out our blog on the issue of differing family names - What’s in a name.

What happens if the other person with PR does not provide their consent?

You’ll need to apply to a court for permission to take a child abroad if you haven’t got permission from the other people with parental responsibility.

You must give details of the trip, e.g. the date of departure, when and how you’re returning, and contact details of people with parental responsibility staying in the UK.

You must give more information if you’re taking the child abroad for a longer trip, e.g. what education the child will get while they’re abroad.

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Stephanie deals with all aspects of relationship breakdown to include divorce, children matters and resolving the financial issues upon separation.

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What’s in a childs name? Your family holiday could be riding on it

Blog | Family

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The main holiday season is fast approaching and for the first time in a couple of years, many people will be taking their children off to sunnier climes.

As well as packing the usual beachwear, sun cream and passports (do check they are still valid and have the required time left on them!), it could be necessary to take a little extra paperwork along for those people whose surname is different to their child’s.

A different surname might arise for a host of reasons, such as a divorce and subsequent name change, keeping a maiden name on marriage or re-marriage, or having a child with a double-barrelled surname.

If a child, who is coming on holiday with an adult, does have a different surname, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of not having sufficient paperwork to show that the child is perfectly entitled to be on holiday with that person.

As well as the child’s passport, taking a paper trail to prove who their parents are is vital.  This includes the child’s birth certificate, as well as the parent’s, and if they have changed their surname upon divorce, the change of name deed and a copy of the final order (old decree nisi) is also necessary. Bringing along an expired passport, which proves the name change could also be helpful.

Obtaining the written consent of the other parent or anyone who has parental responsibility for the child is another wise move. A properly drawn up consent form, or if that’s not possible, a letter from the other parent, confirming their full contact details, that they are the parent of the child and that they have given consent for the holiday, along with their signature, should suffice.

Having an awareness of the questions that might be asked at the immigration desk is important, as it allows a level of preparation between parent and child. They might be asked the identity of the other parent, for example.

Consent is not legally required by the other parent if the holiday is for less than 28 days and a Child Arrangements Court order is already in place to confirm the child lives with the parent taking them on holiday, but it is always better to have it, rather than run the risk.

If the other parent won’t agree to the holiday, it’s not too late, speaking to a family lawyer about obtaining an order from the court is an option.

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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.

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Guides & Advice

Our latest edition of Life Times magazine

Our Autumn Edition of Life Times is Out Now

We bring you the autumn edition of Life Times magazine - a round-up of insightful and informative content.

From looking at how to access the First Homes scheme, to resolving relationship disputes out of court, and Inheritance – A gift or a curse? The autumn issue is packed full of useful tips and information.

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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate – that is the question…

Updated 14 September 2021 

Following a pivotal clinical trial earlier this year, the Pfizer vaccine gained European regulatory approval for use on children aged 12 to 15.  The chief medical officers of all four nations have now recommended extending it in a one job form to those children 12 – 15yrs of age.  

Although the news is largely positive, from a family perspective, a spike in parental disputes is likely. 

As family lawyers, at the beginning of the pandemic we saw a significant number of cases relating to children disputes, where COVID was a real obstacle for separated parents who were sharing care of children. For example, if one parent was living with their elderly parents, there would inevitably be worry about a child moving between households and transmitting the virus. Or a child would maybe have symptoms, meaning the self-isolation period would prevent them from seeing the other parent. 

With the vaccine roll-out for children now added into the mix, there’s likely to be an influx of disputes between parents who cannot agree on whether to vaccinate their children or not. 

Disagreements too between separated families about holiday arrangements are also set to increase as international travel begins to open up. 

However, with the right approach, most of these issues can be dealt with so that there is a mutually agreed resolution. 

 

Do I need to vaccinate my child to travel? 

Issues around vaccinating children aren’t new but, with a vaccine being a prerequisite for travel at the moment for adults, it’s more likely to become a hotly debated topic. 

 

What if my ex and I can’t agree on whether to vaccinate our child? 

If the parents can’t agree, then one of them can make an application to the court for a Specific Issue order, so the court will have the final say. This is sometimes unpalatable, given that effectively a decision about one’s own child is given to the state to make. 

There is, however, specific case law in this area, which the courts adopt for guidance. In the case of M V H (Children represented by their Children’s guardian) [2020] EWFC 93, the judgment of the case makes it clear that in instances where parents disagree on vaccinating their children, the court is likely to view that the vaccination is in the child’s best interest and make an order in favour of the child receiving the vaccine, if it is approved for children/on the NHS vaccination schedule. 

It was also noted in the non-legally binding comments from the judge that if the COVID vaccine is approved for use in children (which it now has), then the court is likely to view it as being in the child’s best interest also. 

 

Do I have to let my child go abroad with my ex-partner if I don’t want to? 

Issues around holiday arrangements are rising. If one parent wants to consider a holiday abroad, the other parent may be reticent about the child having COVID tests. 

If one parent has a child arrangements order stating that the child lives with them then they can take that child abroad for up to 28 days without requiring permission from the other parent (this is of course unless the court says otherwise). 

However, if both parents have parental responsibility, then both must give their consent before a child goes on holiday. 

If the other parent does not give their express permission, then an application will need to be made to the court for an order for leave to remove the child from the jurisdiction. 

 

How can we reach an agreement? 

Early communication is always the best first option, but reaching an agreement isn’t always easy. With the right approach, most of these issues can be dealt with so that there is a mutually agreed resolution and without involving the courts. 

Seeking professional advice can be helpful too, or consider using alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation to allow both parents to have their say in a controlled environment. The very last resort is court action. 

As life continues to slowly move back to normal, being vaccinated is a requirement to do some ‘normal’ things, such as travel, so we may see more of these disputes arise. 

How we can help you

If you would like any further information or advice on the areas discussed in this article, please do not hesitate to contact Nikki Aston or another member of the family team in your local office.

Our family team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your way out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

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Child Law | What rights do grandparents have?

What rights do grandparents have?

The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is unlike any other. It can offer a level of support and understanding that can’t be found with other relatives and is often a vital part of a child’s upbringing.

Unfortunately, in the UK, grandparents do not have automatic rights to see their grandchildren. However, if you’re a grandparent and are currently being prevented from seeing your grandchildren then there are options available. Here we explain how you can maintain access and keep the relationship going.

How do I get to see my grandchildren?

The most common reason for grandparents not to be able to see their grandchildren is relationship breakdown. This could be between a grandparent and their children, or between the grandchildren’s parents. Either way, the separation can be upsetting for the grandparents and the grandchildren.

family one child in a house
Speak to their parents

Before turning to legal action you should first try and speak to the parent that is preventing contact with your grandchildren. By having an honest conversation, the parent may begin to change their mind about access. Just remember that having a quick chat is unlikely to cause an immediate change of attitude, so this may have several conversations. Therefore, it’s vital not to threaten legal action after only one or two conversations, as this could increase tensions unnecessarily.

Flexibility
Mediation

If initial conversations don’t go to plan, then mediation might be a good route to try, whether this is with a professional or another family member. Only after these options have failed should you consider making an application to the court..

Handshake
Child arrangements order

You can ask the court for permission to apply for a court order – unfortunately, grandparents don’t have the same automatic right to go straight in and apply for a court order in the same way that parents do. Thankfully, family courts do recognise the importance and valuable role that grandparents can play in their grandchildren's’ lives so it’s likely that permission will be granted to allow you to make the application for a child arrangements court order for contact.

The child arrangements order will determine who your grandchildren will have contact with and for how long. You can read more about child arrangement orders generally in our guide to making child arrangements during a divorce or separation.

What if my grandchildren’s parents break the child arrangement order?

If you have obtained a child arrangements order to see your grandchildren, and their parent does not adhere to this order, then you can return the matter to court and request that the order is enforced.

Will a change in my grandchildren’s circumstances change my grandparent’s rights?

If there has been a change of circumstances, such as parental separation or the death of one or both of their parents, unfortunately, the same provisions still apply - no matter how harsh this may seem.

Getting help with seeing your grandchildren

Family breakdowns can be emotional and difficult for everyone involved. However, what is usually overlooked is the emotional distress caused by a loss of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. We will be with you every step of the way.

If you’re a grandparent and are experiencing barriers with having contact with your grandchildren then we can help. Speak to one of our family lawyers to discuss the options available to ensure you don’t lose touch and maintain that vital relationship.

How we can help

Children - Parenting through a separation is never easy. Our team of experts are on hand to guide you through the process of making child arrangement orders, always ensuring the long-term interests of your children remain at the heart of every child custody decision.

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International Families - Our international family law solicitors are experienced in dealing with cross-border relationships. We will work alongside lawyers in other countries to secure the best outcome for you and your family if a relationship breaks down.

Mediation, Arbitration & Collaborative Law - When a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean financial issues or child arrangements have to be settled in court. Our mediation lawyers can help you reach a solution that works for you and your ex-partner, offering you more control and flexibility over the decisions being made

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Making child arrangements during a divorce or separation

Making child arrangements during a divorce or separation

The breakdown of a relationship is never easy and it can be even more difficult and emotional if children are involved, partially when it comes to making child arrangements.

Being able to co-parent through a separation is essential in ensuring that any emotional stress or disruption for the children is kept to a minimum. Whether your relationship breakdown has been amicable, or there have been disagreements from both sides, there are various approaches you can take to reach a solution that works for you and your ex-partner, and more importantly, considers and protects the long-term interests and welfare of your children.

You can read more about legally ending your marriage in our handy step-by-step guide to getting a divorce.

Here we explain the process and the approaches available when making child arrangements if you're going through a divorce or separation.

1. Try to reach an agreement with your ex-partner

If you and your ex-partner can reach an agreement on all matters relating to your children then you do not need to go to court – you can record what you’ve both agreed in a parenting plan. However, we suggest you seek the advice of a family lawyer to ensure that your agreement is legally binding, should there ever be disagreements or issues further down the line.

Resolving and settling issues out of court is always preferred, as it causes the least disruption to your family life. It can also be much quicker and more effective if you can have an amicable conversation and agree between yourselves.

2. Get help to reach an agreement through mediation or collaborative law

It’s natural to not agree on everything. However, just because you and your ex-partner can’t agree on every aspect of your children’s’ arrangements it doesn’t these have to be settled in court. Mediation or collaborative law can be used as a way to work together, alongside an impartial mediator, to secure the best future for your children and without the hefty court fees.

3. Ask the family court to make a decision

If you cannot reach an agreement between yourselves, or through mediation, then you can ask the family court to make a decision. As these court proceedings can be emotional and stressful, this approach should only be taken as a last resort. Because of this, before applying for a court order, you will have to attend a MIAMS (Mediation Information and Assessment) meeting to go through the options available first. You attend this on your own (i.e. your ex-partner does not attend your meeting) and you can then decide if mediation is something you would like to try.

There are four types of family court orders relating to the arrangements of children:

Love house
Child arrangements order

This determines where your children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent and when this will be (including important events such as religious holidays or birthdays).

It will also set out what other contact will take place outside of the physical contact, such as regular phone and video calls.

family one child in a house
Specific issues order

This addresses specific issues around your children’s upbringing, such as where they will go to school, whether they will have a particular religious upbringing, or what their surname should be following your divorce.

It can also determine who will make decisions about your children’s healthcare, or if permission is needed if either of you want to take your children out of the UK.

Stick FigureArtboard 1
Prohibited steps order

This prevents the other parent from making decisions around the children’s upbringing (such as where they will go to school, whether they will have any particularly religious upbringing).

Flexibility
Leave to remove

This is an application to seek the court’s consent to take the children out of the country to live abroad or to go on holiday.

4. After you’ve made your family court application

Once you've applied for a court order then the court will arrange a ‘directions hearing’ with you and your ex-partner (i.e. both parents), designed to figure out what aspects you both agree or disagree on. As your children's welfare is central to all proceedings, the judge or magistrate will also assess if your children are at risk in any way at all.

If there are no concerns over your children's welfare, during the hearing you'll be encouraged to reach an agreement if it's in your children's best interests that you do so. If you are able to agree then the court will record what you've agreed in a consent order and could end the process. If you're unable to reach an agreement at the first hearing then the process will continue and the judge or magistrate will set out what the next steps will be.

The welfare of your children will remain the priority and will always be put first throughout the process. Your children's wishes will be taken into account (if applicable, depending on their age, etc.), as well the their emotional and physical needs and the possible impact that any changes to their routine may have on their wellbeing.

A court will only make an order if they think it is in your children’s best interests to do so.

5. Enforcing a child arrangements court order

If your ex-partner is not following the court order then you can ask the court to enforce it. It is worth noting that the court may not enforce the existing order if they feel your ex-partner has good reason to not follow it, or if they believe the order is no longer in your children’s best interests. You can go back to the court if you don’t agree with their decision.

Getting help with making child arrangements

During, and following, a relationship breakdown, the primary focus and concern should always be the welfare of any children that are involved.

If you’re currently going through a divorce or separation involving children, our team of child custody lawyers will support and guide you through what can be an incredibly emotional journey.

Our child-centric approach never loses sight of the long-term interests of you and your children.

How we can help

Children - Parenting through a separation is never easy. Our team of experts are on hand to guide you through the process of making child arrangement orders, always ensuring the long-term interests of your children remain at the heart of every child custody decision.

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International Families - Our international family law solicitors are experienced in dealing with cross-border relationships. We will work alongside lawyers in other countries to secure the best outcome for you and your family if a relationship breaks down.

Mediation, Arbitration & Collaborative Law - When a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean financial issues or child arrangements have to be settled in court. Our mediation lawyers can help you reach a solution that works for you and your ex-partner, offering you more control and flexibility over the decisions being made

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Personal Tax Planning - From drafting your will to advising you how to structure your finances in the most tax efficient way, we aim to be your personal tax partner for life, ensuring we can design a plan that is exactly right for you and your family to protect your personal wealth.

Wills & Succession - It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.

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Guides & Advice

Maintaining child arrangements and adhering to court orders in the face of COVID-19

Will the coronavirus lockdown mean I can’t see my child?

We are all finding ourselves in unprecedented circumstances, in every aspect of our lives. When you are in the middle of a relationship breakdown, it is difficult enough to navigate those unchartered waters, without the added complication of a global pandemic.

If you are currently trying to negotiate with your former partner about the time you spend with your children, or you have recently obtained a child arrangements order through the court, you may be concerned about how this can work given the ongoing coronavirus situation.

This post explains the legal situation concerning child arrangements, court orders and the coronavirus lockdown. Read on to learn more about your rights in relation to seeing your child during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What do I do if my child spends half their time with me and have with my ex-partner?

It must be said that a huge amount of common sense, pragmatism and goodwill needs to be applied. If there is a court order in place, then each party must endeavour to adhere to this as far as is reasonably practicable. In our previous lives, it might have been that issues arose about late returns of children, last minute changes without good reason, return of the children’s belongings etc. However, these testing times should remind us that maintaining relationships and a routine is key to surviving these next few months.

Children need to keep seeing both parents during this period of uncertainty so parents need to work together, more than ever, to ensure this happens.

Can I still see my child if they don’t live with me?

The guidance published back in March 2020 stated that ‘where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes and the situation with child arrangements and coronavirus has not changed.

However, this does not mean that children must be moved between homes. Priority needs to be given to shielding vulnerable family members, and if a child is living in a household where a person shows symptoms, then the appropriate self-isolation period needs to be applied.

What do I do if my ex-partner is using coronavirus to stop me from seeing my child?

Unfortunately, in these unprecedented times there will always be people who try to take advantage of circumstances for their own benefit. Family law can cause high conflict and people caught in family disputes may behave very irrationally as they try to leverage situations to suit their goals.

If attempts to resolve the issue through civil discussions are unsuccessful, you could arrange for mediation through lawyers. In situations where court orders are already in place, contact the solicitors who arranged this initially – alternatively, get in touch with Helen Bowns in our family team to see how we can help.

Will lockdown stop my child arrangement hearing from happening?

At the time of writing our local courts are dealing with the majority of hearings remotely, either by video link or telephone, and the child’s welfare and the need to avoid delay will be taken into account when making decisions about listing the case for hearing.

At Shakespeare Martineau, it is business as usual. We are able to work from home and still deal with your case, and that can also include making an urgent application to the court if needed.

We remain committed to working alongside you to navigate your challenges, provide support and protect your interests during these uncertain times.

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This post has explained the impact of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on court orders and child arrangements.

If you need some advice on maintaining child arrangements and adhering to court orders during the pandemic, no matter where you are on your journey, we can help to support and guide you through the options available - contact Helen Bowns in our family team.

Should you require legal support with any issues relating to child arrangements, visit our child custody lawyers page to learn more about how we can help.

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The summer holidays are approaching and many people will be taking their child off to sunnier climes. As well as packing the usual beachwear, sun cream and passports, it could be necessary to take a little extra paperwork along for those people whose surname is different to their child’s.

A different surname might arise for a host of reasons, such as a divorce and subsequent name change, keeping a maiden name on marriage or re-marriage, or having a child with a double-barreled surname.

If a child, who is coming on holiday with an adult, does have a different surname, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of not having sufficient paperwork to show that the child is perfectly entitled to be on holiday with that person.

As well as the child’s passport, taking a paper trail to prove who their parents are is vital.  This includes the child’s birth certificate, as well as the parent’s, and if they have changed their surname upon divorce, the change of name deed and a copy of the decree absolute is also necessary. Bringing along an expired passport, which proves the name change could also help.

Obtaining the written consent of the other parent or anyone who has parental responsibility for the child is another wise move. A properly drawn up consent form, or if that’s not possible, a letter from the other parent, confirming their full contact details, that they are the parent of the child and that they have given consent for the holiday, along with their signature, should suffice.

Having an awareness of the questions that might be asked at the immigration desk is important, as it allows a level of preparation between parent and child. They might be asked the identity of the other parent, for example.

Consent is not legally required by the other parent if the holiday is for less than 28 days and a Child Arrangements Court order is already in place to confirm the child lives with the parent taking them on holiday, but it is always better to have it, rather than run the risk.

If the other parent won’t agree to the holiday, it’s not too late, speaking to a family lawyer about obtaining an order from the court is an option.

The Courts and Cafcass appear to be more alive to this issue than ever before. In a recent case in Norwich Family Court, a Judge ordered an eight-year-old boy to live with his father after he heard evidence that the boy was being influenced by his mother’s “hateful feelings” towards his father.

In these types of cases, a psychologist is usually instructed to prepare a report for the court. The psychologist in this case said the mother persistently portrayed the boy’s father negatively, causing the boy’s views to be twisted against his father.

Where alienating behaviours feature in a case, the psychologist and Cafcass use their professional judgement to assess whether it is in the best interests of the child to spend time with one or both parents.

The psychologist then reports their recommendations to the court before the Judge makes a final decision about what time the child will have with either parent.

This case serves as a stark warning that the Court has the power to change who a child lives with, when faced with evidence that one of their parents is exposing them to significant emotional harm by consistently speaking negatively about the other parent.

In light of the above, warring parents must consider the impact of the negative comments they are making about any of the children in the family. Keeping derogatory comments about the other parent far away from the children is advised, no matter how frustrated a person feels. It is far better to encourage and promote a child to have a relationship with their other parent rather than let negative views about them brush off onto the child, potentially damaging the relationship unnecessarily.

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Katherine Marshall, one of our partners in the family team, and Suzanne Leggott, a private client partner, discuss the issues that need to be considered in these cases:

Finding the missing person

The most vital issue is tracking down the person who has gone missing. Contact needs to be made with them, whether that be through social media campaigns, a police investigation, or even a private investigator.

If the person is retired, it is worth looking into whether they are collecting their state pension. Accessing the letter forwarding service offered by the Department for Work and Pensions can help shed light on any previous addresses the person may have had, although individuals can’t access this service; it can only be accessed through certain channels such as by solicitors or charities.

Understanding why the person may have disappeared

If a person goes missing during divorce proceedings, they may have done so to escape what can be a traumatic experience. People’s coping mechanisms vary, and sometimes they are not in the right place to face the issues head on.

It may be the case that the person has a history of mental health concerns, and if so, they may need specialist support throughout proceedings. Safeguarding procedures should be put in place by solicitors if this is the case, so the process can be managed in an appropriate manner, causing as little distress as possible.

Can funds be distributed without the missing person’s permission?

In the event of an estate administration and an absent beneficiary, issues can arise surrounding how the proceeds from the sale of the property are to be distributed. Without contacting the missing person, instructions around distribution cannot be given and can hold up proceedings for all parties.

If this occurs during a divorce, a former spouse may attempt to give away the money, perhaps to charity. This can be worrying for the family of the missing person, as there is still the possibility that they will return and need the money. However, it is unlikely that a former spouse could achieve this, as the process is complex and long-winded.

Seeking appropriate legal advice is of great importance in such a rare situation and to resolve the situation in the best way possible, contacting the missing person is paramount. This gives the individual the option of settling the situation themselves, or appointing someone else to do so.

Find out more information about our family team, or see more about our private client team.