At this time of year, many families will be gearing up to take their children on holiday. Things might be a little different this year, but some may be able to escape for some later summer sun.
With the coronavirus outbreak aside, many newly divorced parents may be wondering what the rules are for taking children abroad for the first time. What was previously a simple and enjoyable task could become difficult to navigate, particularly following a difficult separation.
In many cases, holidays will be agreed in advance. Separated parents will decide how to manage important holidays such as Christmas and Easter. They will also decide where their children will spend the school holidays. And finally, they will decide how long each parent can take their child abroad for holidays.
While this might be settled in advance, when the time comes to take a holiday, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise. If you want to stay on the right side of the law and keep things amicable with your ex, here are a few things you should remember when planning a holiday after a divorce.
What does the law say?
When it comes to taking children on holiday after a divorce, it all depends on the wording of your Child Arrangements Order. More specifically, it all depends on who has parental responsibility. If both parents are named on the birth certificate, they should both have parental responsibility.
If you agreed in your divorce settlement that both parents would have parental responsibility, then it is against the law to take a child out of the country without written permission from the other parent. It doesn’t matter if the child normally lives with you and visits the other parent. If the agreement states you have shared parental responsibility, then you need written permission.
Do I need permission from my ex to take my child abroad?
If you have shared parental responsibility, then you will need permission from your ex to take your child abroad. If this is denied, then you can apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This can take a while to process, so it’s important to get this settled well in advance.
You should also provide your partner with information about the holiday. This includes the destination, where you will be staying, telephone numbers and flight numbers. The other parent must know where their child is.
Can I stop my ex taking my child on holiday?
If you have shared parental responsibility, then it is possible to stop your ex from taking your child on holiday. You could simply withhold consent and fail to provide written permission. However, they can apply to the Family Courts for a Specific Issue Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
If you believe that the holiday is not within the best interests of the child, for example, if the holiday is to take place during term time, then you can then apply for a Prohibited Steps Order.
What about applying for passports?
You can’t leave the country without a passport, but not everyone can apply for a passport on a child’s behalf. If the child is under 15, you can apply for a passport on their behalf and only one parental signature is required. If the child is aged between 15-18, they will also need to sign the passport application.
Who holds the passports is often a cause of dispute between separated parents. It’s not uncommon for the trust to break down and one parent will refuse to hand over passports until they have complete details of the holiday. Trying to keep things amicable and avoiding any kind of evasive behaviour can help to prevent this kind of breakdown.
Can my ex cancel my child’s passport?
A passport should only be cancelled if it has been lost, stolen or destroyed. Many holidays have been ruined by separated parents refusing to hand over passports or threatening to cancel passports. If you are concerned that your partner is planning to take your child overseas and not return home, then you can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. You should not attempt to cancel a passport to prevent the trip from going ahead.