How is it almost the school summer holidays already?! Lots of families will have already made plans for their holiday abroad and will have been looking forward to it for months.
What parents need to check before they go away, however, is whether they are covered by the law when taking a child abroad, which requires you to have Parental Responsibility of the child. If you do not have this, you could be committing the criminal offence of child abduction. “But of course I can take MY child abroad!” is something clients say time and time again, but it’s not always that simple.
In this article, Family Law specialist Rachael Haine outlines the stipulations of Parental Responsibility when it comes to taking children abroad.
How Do I Obtain Parental Responsibility?
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 it, see my previous blog: What is Parental Responsibility?).
However, for those without Parental Responsibility you will need to seek the consent of everyone who does have it for the child before you can remove them from England and Wales (more on this this later). For obvious reasons, that consent should be in writing. You can obtain the consent from them directly or through solicitors if you are not able to communicate with them directly.
If there is a Court Order in place on the child, the person named in the Child Arrangements Order (or Residence/Contact Order as they used to be known) as the person the child lives with (or in the case of Residence Orders, the person in whose favour the order was made) may remove the child for a period of less than one month without requiring such consent/permission.
What Happens If I Don’t Get Consent Before Taking a Child Abroad?
If those with Parental Responsibility do 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 secure Parental Responsibility prior to travelling abroad 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 or Wales to Scotland – may effectively amount to the same thing as taking a child abroad.
In most cases, the court is likely to grant permission for taking a child abroad, especially if the holiday is for a reasonable period of time and the destination is deemed as safe.
Are You Taking a Child Abroad?
If you’re planning to take a child abroad during these school summer holidays or at any other time and are unsure about your Parental Responsibility status, then Giles Wilson’s Family Law solicitors can offer advice on the matter.
Alternatively, learn more about our Child Law services here on our website.