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Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

As the school Summer holidays are soon approaching, parents may wish to travel abroad with the child.

This could arise for a number of reasons, throughout the year: wanting to go on holiday, wishing to go to visit family members, or even permanently moving overseas. 

Following separation from your child’s Mother or Father, this situation can be a little more tricky to navigate, as one parent may wish to travel abroad with the child.

It is possible that parents are able to reach an agreement in respect of taking the child abroad without much issue. In some instances however, the other parent does not agree with the child being taken out of the country.

What is considered “Abroad”?

Any location outside the UK will be regarded as taking the child abroad. It may be the case that if the child is travelling to Scotland or Northern Ireland from England and Wales, this is regarded as “abroad.”

Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

You must obtain permission from everyone who has parental responsibility for the child, before taking the child abroad.

If there is an existing child arrangements order in place, which states that the child lives with you, you are able to take the child abroad without obtaining permission from the other parent, unless the Court Order notes otherwise. However, it is important to bear in mind when making your travel plans, whether the time away clashes with any contact period between the child and other parent.

If there is, you should liaise with them to try and vary the contact period during the time away to another date.

If the parent specified in the Child arrangements Order with whom the child lives, wishes to take the child away for longer than 28 days, or if there is no existing child arrangements order in place, then you must have written permission from the other parent or a Court Order granting you permission.

What is Parental Responsibility and who has it?

Parental Responsibility is all rights, responsibilities and duties a parent has towards a child.

Mothers have parental responsibility automatically from birth.

If the parties are married or in a civil partnership, then both parents automatically have parental responsibility.

Unmarried Fathers have parental responsibility provided they are named upon the child’s birth certificate, or if they have a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother, or Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.

Others may apply to the Court to have parental responsibility, such as grandparents or step-parents.

If there is an Interim Care Order or Final Care Order, the local authority also share parental responsibility with the parents.

It is important that all those with parental responsibility towards the child grant permission for the child to travel with you abroad.

 Do I need a permission letter to take my child abroad?

 Whilst you may consider verbal consent is sufficient, it is important to consider how you may evidence that you have the requisite permission from the person with parental responsibility to take the child abroad.

By way of a very brief template to follow in order to take your child abroad, the letter should include:

  • details about the proposed trip including the destination, accommodation plans and dates of the trip
  • Information about the child, including their full name, address, birth date and birth place.
  • contact details for all persons with parental responsibility
  • details of any others travelling
  • copy evidence of the relationship with the child (birth or adoption certificate)
  • If the surname of the child is different to the parent travelling, copy evidence of the relationship between the parties, such as confirmation of the Divorce or marriage, if available to evidence a corresponding surname in support of the permission letter.
  • medical consent form enabling giving you authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, should need arise.

Once obtained, it is strongly advised that the letter is signed before a notary public to reduce questions as to the authenticity of the documentation.

How do I obtain a permission letter to take my child abroad?

If you are able to discuss this matter with your ex-partner, it may be a case that you can draw this up between you.

It is important to consider this issue well in advance of any proposed trips abroad in order to ensure any potential issues are resolved before the trip is booked.

Alternatively, if you are no longer on amicable terms, it would be advised to approach a law firm who can assist you in obtaining a permission letter.

This is beneficial as it avoids the need of further contention between you both, allowing you to resolve this matter amicably without the need for lengthy and costly legal action.

Who will need to see this permission letter?

You may be asked by border officers, either in the UK or abroad to evidence you have permission to take the child abroad. This tends to arise where the child and you have different surnames.

Having the letter and any supporting evidence to hand will ensure you are able to answer any queries with ease and should minimise any issues, allowing you to enjoy the rest of your time away.

You may have to make an application to the court for a court order to allow you to take the child, and if so, should take the court order with you on your travels to produce where requested by officials.

 What happens if the other parent refuses to give consent to me taking our child abroad?

If permission to take a child abroad is not given by those who have parental responsibility for the child, then you must seek the permission of the Court to travel, by making an application to the Court.

This is done by way of making a specific issue application to the Court. A specific issue application arises in instances where those with parental responsibility of a child are not able to reach an agreement over an issue concerning the child.

Of course, if the other parent continues to object to the trip abroad, then they may apply for a prohibited steps order.

Before you can obtain a court order, the first step is for you to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

This is a requirement of the court before you can make an application to the court, which enables to you consider at the end of the MIAM whether mediation might be an appropriate means of resolving the dispute between you and your ex-partner, or those with parental responsibility for the child, or if you should proceed to make an application to the Court.

If you wish to make an application to the Court, then the mediator issues a MIAM certificate for you.

Alongside your application to the court for a specific issue order or prohibited steps order, the MIAM Certificate must also be sent to court.

The relevant form for a specific issue order application or prohibited steps application is Form C100.

You must file this with the court, along with the MIAM certificate and court fee.

The Court then issue the specific issue order or prohibited steps order application.

The matter is listed for a Hearing.

In these matters, there are usually 3 hearings and occasionally can be more depending on the facts of your matter.

What will the Court take into consideration when considering my application to take my child abroad?

The Court primarily focuses on the welfare of the child and their best interests.

When considering how to proceed, the Court will have mind to the welfare checklist as per s1(3) of the Children Act.

The Court will likely approve your request if the time period away is reasonable, and is within 28 days.

It can become more complex if the area you wish to travel to is regarded unsafe, the trip planned is for longer than 28 days, or there is a risk that the child may not be returned after to their home country. This is a significant risk if the parent proposing to travel has family abroad, in the country they wish to travel to.

It is important to consider whether the proposed destination is part of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which is an important safeguard to secure return of a child.

The Court will then allow your specific issue order application, providing you with a court order to take the child on holiday, or they will allow your ex-partner’s prohibited steps order, refusing you permission to take your child away.

The specific issue order and prohibited steps orders can be made alongside a child arrangement order, or even if there is a child arrangement order already existing in respect of the child.

What if I take my child abroad without permission?

As mentioned above, if you have child arrangements order already in place, and you are the parent with whom the child is noted as living with, then you can take the child abroad for a period of up to 28 days.

If you wish to travel for longer than 28 days, or there is no such existing child arrangements order in place and you still take the child abroad, then this will be regarded as child abduction which is a criminal offence, with very serious consequences.

What happens if I wish to permanently relocate abroad, with my child?

We enclose the following guide which explores the process for relocation overseas with your child:

At Laker Legal Solicitors, we are well aware of the challenges that can arise in travelling abroad with your child.

We can assist you and guide you through this process. Please contact our specialist Child Arrangements solicitors by filling in our contact form, emailing us at or by calling us directly on 01524 753040 in order to arrange an initial consultation.

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