In this guide we look at what separated parents need to do to take their children on holiday

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.

What’s the law?

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

Who has parental rights and responsibilities?

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)

Are there any exceptions?

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 consent, rather than run the risk.

What evidence and documents do I need to show the other parent’s consent?

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 and the parent’s
  • A divorce or marriage certificate, if you are a single parent but your family name is different from the child’s.
  • If you changed your surname upon divorce, the change of name deed and a copy of the final order (old decree nisi)
  • Bringing along an expired passport, which proves the name change could also be helpful.
  • You will need to obtain written consent from the other parent or anyone who has parental responsibility for the child is another wise move. A properly drawn up consent form is ideal, 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 about the identity of the other parent, for example, or you might be asked for the letter.

What happens if the other person with parental responsibility 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.

If the other parent won’t agree to the holiday, it’s not too late, speaking to one of our family lawyers 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. She has over twenty years’ experience in advising clients in relation to family law issues. Helen has particular expertise in representing clients with substantial wealth and has many cases involving family businesses, trusts and farms. Helen also advises parents in complex children cases including international relocation.

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Published: 18th May 2022
Area: Children

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