Legal implications of taking children abroad if you are separated.

Karen Moores's picture

Going abroad on holiday or to live is becoming a common occurrence for many children. Parents may be offered positions abroad, either for a specific time or with endless possibilities of a permanent move. Likewise, grandparents may have chosen to move to a warm climate with a more relaxed way of life and promises of frequent long holidays for their family.

Although these changes can be viewed with a mixture of excitement and fear, if both parents agree, then their children can explore new vistas.

However, if the parents are no longer residing together there are many issues which may arise that need to be addressed. Karen Moores, family law solicitor explains the legal implications of taking your children abroad if you are divorced or separated.

Taking a child on holiday

The necessity to obtain permission to take a child out of the UK is not commonly known. It often depends on what Children Act Orders have been made, if any, and applies whether it is a day trip to France, a fortnight to Florida or the whole of the school holidays with relatives in Pakistan.

Consideration should first of all be given as to who has parental responsibility. If both parents have parental responsibility and there are no residence orders or other restrictions in place, then neither can take the child on holiday outside the United Kingdom without the written consent of the other parent or any other party with parental responsibility. If consent is refused, an application to the Court will need to be made for permission.

The situation is different where one parent has a Residence Order. A person with a Residence Order can take a child abroad for up to a month without the written consent of the other parent. However, it is good parenting to endeavour to agree the arrangements in advance; if consent is unreasonably withheld then an application may be made to the Court.

If the mother alone has parental responsibility and there are no residence orders concerning the child, permission is not strictly needed by her to take a child abroad on holiday. However, again it is responsible parenting to consult and reach agreement with the other parent. Of course this does not stop a father without parental responsibility applying for parental responsibility and then objecting to the temporary removal of the child.

In almost all cases it is best to agree holiday or similar arrangements in advance to avoid misunderstandings, problems with contact, accusations of abduction and other applications to the Court. In the normal course of events permission for a child to go abroad is invariably given by a Court. Often details are required stating where the child will be staying, giving the date of departure, return and details of flights along with contact telephone numbers. If however there are suspicions that the child will not be returned, especially if the child is going to a non Hague Convention Country, then security will be necessary.

If grandparents and other family members want to take a child abroad, permission will be needed from both parents with parental responsibility and not just from one parent.

All of these issues may be dealt with at the local Court, however, if the approved holiday requires consideration of the law and procedures in foreign countries, then a Judge of the High Court may deal with such applications as consideration will need to be given with regard to putting in place specific orders. This may include mirror orders, notarised agreements and significant sums of money placed in a bond to be released upon the child's return. There have also been cases where family members, not just the person taking the child abroad, have been required to enter into a solemn declaration guaranteeing the safe return of the child.

The Court would also look at the risk of non return along with the magnitude of the impact on the child of any non return. It is therefore evident from previous Judge's decisions that they take account of each individual circumstance, the age of the child and detailed protective steps if there is a significant fear of non return after a trip abroad.

For further information and questions on taking your child/children abroad, contact us today.

Concerns of abduction

It is not unusual, particularly in families with international connections, for either parent to be anxious that the child will not be returned. These doubts may arise prior to the child leaving on holiday or indeed where the parent and child are returned late after a contact visit or if it has been difficult to get in touch with the other parent at any stage. If there is an immediate risk, port alert will be required. If there is time to secure an application to the Court for an order prohibiting the removal of the child from the jurisdiction without notice being given to the other parent, this should be done quickly as it can be crucially important to prevent the child leaving the UK. Any delay in an application can result in the child being taken out of the jurisdiction and may then result in great difficulty in locating the child and securing their return.

Nevertheless, if it is known that the child has been taken to a Country within the European Union there are considerable resources and facilities in place to track and locate a child in the hope of securing a return before departure to the rest of the world.

Abduction is known as a failure to return a child after an agreed period abroad. As stated above there are protective steps which can be taken if there is a fear of a non return after a trip abroad and legal advice should always be sought promptly to address anxiety about any concerns of an abduction. Information such as names, addresses, photographs and descriptions of people and places where it is likely that the child could be taken should be gathered as soon as possible. Clearly, this evidence may only be available if there is a reason to suspect that the child is being taken to other family members or friends who reside abroad.

If you have any concerns about abduction and need some legal advice on the issue, contact our family team.

Relocating abroad

A parent needs the permission of the other parent or a Court Order to take a child permanently abroad. This is known as a relocation application or leave to remove.

In some cases it is appropriate to oppose the relocation application but in others it may be wise to consider putting energies into legal representation to ensuring very good future contact before the relocation proceeds. If there are well thought out plans, with good reasons given to the Court for relocation, they will generally allow relocation. This however, does not mean that a parent opposing relocation of their child should immediately give up.

When considering opposing relocation applications it is essential to consider all aspects of a child's life. The Court will hear evidence as to the child's educational progress, family and support network, activities that they are involved in along with the impact of losing contact with the wider family. Consideration will also be given by the Court as to what more could the one parent offer the child if they continue to reside in this jurisdiction. If the child is to remain in Europe where the country has signed up to the appropriate conventions, there will be certain protection and enforceability of orders for contact. Even if a child has been permitted to go abroad, certain safeguards can be put in place to ensure that good contact continues. This may include extended staying contact during the school holidays and consideration as to travel arrangements, the use of emails and web cams.

Enforcement is another important issue that is required to be looked at before a child leaves the jurisdiction as often if there is a breach of an agreement or an Order these may have no validity abroad and may therefore not be relied upon. Therefore notarised agreements, mirror orders, bonds, religious oaths and other safeguards to ensure compliance with arrangements should be considered. Contact Orders made in England may not automatically be recognised or may require separate Court procedures and all of this must be done before departure.

A mirror order is an order made in the courts of the country of relocation.  This is identical to the order made before the UK courts. Therefore the advantage for the left behind parent is that because the order becomes an order of the foreign state, local enforcement is available.

There are therefore many issues that have to be considered as far in advance as possible. Legal advice from a Solicitor, preferably who has experience in such matters, should be taken so that due consideration may be given to all the possibilities that may arise and precautionary measures put in place.

Many children go abroad on holiday to visit family and friends or indeed to emigrate and it is a positive experience for them. Ultimately wherever the children is residing, it is usually in the best interests of that child to have regular, quality and contact with both parents. If this is an issue that you require further assistance or advice on please contact us today.

child taken abroad for 6 weeks

After a County court decision my child can be taken abroad for 6 weeks and mother will not stay with child in Slovakia she will return to the UK. child staying Slovakia with grand parents,auntie,uncle and uncel's partner. I think my rights as a father and British citizen where overlooked by judge. My expartner does not need any permission of me even if I am on my son birth certificate.

Living abroad

My girlfriend has three children at home their ages are 14,12 & 10; the estranged father of the eldest two does not have contact (his choice) can she legally move abroad to live?

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