How is it almost the school summer holidays already?!Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take note and take action to avoid unnecessary stress. Parents also need to check before they go away is whether they are legally permitted to take their child abroad. If you are not, you could be committing the criminal offence of child abduction. “But of course I can take MY child abroad” is something clients say to me time and time again, however it is not always that’s simple…
Can I take my child abroad?
Firstly we need to establish who has parental responsibility for the child. Usually, this is fairly obvious, particularly as parents who were married both have parental responsibility, but sometimes it will not be so obvious. It is fairly common now for unmarried fathers to have parental responsibility. For more information on parental responsibility and who has/can acquire the same, see my previous blog (link to blog). You will need to seek the consent of anyone who has parental responsibility for the child before you can remove them from England and Wales (I’ll come back to this later). For obvious reasons, that consent should preferably be in writing. You can obtain the consent from them directly, or through solicitors, for example, if you are not able to communicate with them directly.
If there is a Court Order in place in respect of the child, the person named in the child arrangements order (or residence/contact order as they used to be known) as a person with whom the child is to live or, in the case of residence orders, a person in whose favour the order was made, may remove the child for a period less than one month without requiring such consent/permission.
If the person(s) with parental responsibility does not consent and the child arrangements/residence order rule does not apply, then you will need to obtain the permission of the court before you take the child abroad. Court proceedings may be avoided if both parties agree to sort the matter out via mediation. Failure to do this is child abduction which is a criminal offence.
Interestingly, our legal system only covers England and Wales. This means that removing a child from one legal system within the UK to another, for example from England and Wales (which share the same system of family law) to Scotland, may effectively amount to the same thing as taking the child ‘abroad’.
In most cases, the court is likely to grant permission for you to take your child abroad, especially if the holiday is for a reasonable period of time, and to a destination deemed as safe.
I would always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
What if my child has a different surname to mine?
You should also check you have all documentation necessary, especially if your child has a different surname to you. The officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
Your child’s Birth Certificate – this document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
Proof of your change of name – this could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed.
You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly.
Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the stress by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack the relevant documents. Happy holidays!