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Very soon, schools will be breaking up for the Easter break. You may be considering taking your children abroad for a holiday. As Family Lawyers we come across situations where separated parents have not been consulted about the other parent’s plans to take a child abroad. This often causes unnecessary upset, or even costly applications to the court. Children typically love to go on holiday with their mother or father and carefully planned vacations should not end up in tears or in court.

Even if communication is strained between separated parents, it is important to remember that you are both responsible parents and should still communicate holiday plans and arrangements with each other.

Here are some useful guidelines to plan ahead:

  • Provide the other parent with dates of when you are proposing to leave the Country and which Country you are planning to take your child;
  • Give full details of your holiday including the flight times/numbers and the address of the hotel/villa of where you are staying and who you are travelling with;
  • Provide an emergency contact number for the other parent whilst you are away;
  • Make sure you are told of any recent changes to your child’s medical condition;
  • If you have changed any pre-arranged holiday contact with the other parent, agree alternative arrangements with the other parent.

So what will happen if you do not obey these guidelines and what is your legal position?

Whether you are legally entitled to take a child abroad without the other parents’ permission or not, you should always be courteous to the other parent and abide by the above simple guidelines. Your legal position will depend upon whether or not you have any court orders giving you permission to remove your child from the UK.

If you have a Child Arrangement Order which sets out who a child should live with (previously referred to as a residence order), then that parent is able to remove their child from the UK (for a holiday or similar temporary removal) for a period of up to one month without the written permission of the other parent. If you want to take your child abroad for longer than a month, you would need the written permission from the other parent and/or the permission of any relevant other people with parental responsibility. If written permission is not given, you would need to apply to the court for a specific issue order.

Parental responsibility gives a person responsibility for making important decision in the child’s life; like education, religion and medical care, as well as some day to day decisions. Parental responsibility (PR) can be acquired in a number of ways. The mother of the child and a married father acquires PR automatically, whereas an unmarried father needs to have been named on the child’s birth certificate, entered into a parental responsibility agreement or have acquired a court order.

If both parents have parental responsibility and there is no child arrangement order setting out who a child should live with, you are both in a similar position in that you both need each other’s permission to remove your child from the UK. Again, providing you have both been courteous and tried to agree this between you both by taking into consideration the above, permission should not be withheld. However, if permission is not given, you will have to apply to the court for a specific issue order, providing your plans are reasonable and well thought out then it is unlikely that a court will refuse permission.

If only the mother has parental responsibility and there is no child arrangement order setting out who a child should live with, the mother would not require permission from the father to take a child abroad. However, it is only courteous and responsible parenting to consult with the other parent so as to avoid any hostility or allegations of child abduction. In a situation where a father does not have parental responsibility and he is concerned about his child’s travelling arrangements, he could apply to the court for a parental responsibility order and also a prohibited steps order to prevent a parent from taking a child abroad. However, you must have a good reason to prevent a parent from taking a child abroad for a holiday and your application should not be out of spite.

Disputes are very common between separated parents regarding poorly planned holidays and most often than not, it is the child who suffers and loses out. Therefore, plan in advance and take all of the above into consideration to avoid missing out on a holiday or court proceedings.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.


If you have any queries relating to the above please contact us on info@awdlaw.co.uk or 01329 232314.


The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publishing (21/03/2024).