Taking children abroad – do you require the other parent’s permission?

Summer holidays abroad

Now that the days are getting longer, the sun has come out, and Covid restrictions are lifting, many of us are dreaming of having a week in the sun abroad with our children this summer.

If you are separated from your child’s other parent, there are certain things you need to think about before booking your summer holiday.

Taking your child abroad- the law

Many people don’t realise that no-one can remove a child from the UK without either the permission of every person who has parental responsibility or permission from the Court- and that it is a criminal offence to do so.

That means that if you want to take your child to Spain on holiday, you will need the permission of the other parent, if they have “parental responsibility”.  Parental responsibility means all the legal rights, duties powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child.

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children.  Fathers have parental responsibility automatically if they were married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, or are registered on the child’s birth certificate.

In most cases therefore you will need the other parent’s consent before taking your child abroad.

One useful exception to this is that if there is a Court Order in place confirming that the child lives with you, then you do not need the other parent’s consent to take your child abroad for a period of less than 28 days.

What to do if the other parent won’t consent to you taking your child abroad?

If the other parent refuses to allow you to take your child abroad then there are a few steps to consider.

The first is that you need to speak to the other parent and find out why they don’t agree.  See if you can reach a compromise so that you are both happy.  For example, it might be you agree that your child can phone or Facetime the other parent every second or third night while you are away.  You can confirm that you will provide full details of where you will be staying and any plans you have in case of emergencies.

If you still aren’t able to agree then it might be worth you both speaking to an independent third party to help you reach agreement.  Mediation can be a really good way for you to speak about the issue together with a neutral person who is trained to help you come to an agreement.  It can be a relatively rapid and inexpensive way to reach agreement.

If however there is still a dispute then it is possible to apply to the Court for a “Specific Issue Order” to ask the Court to decide on whether you can take your child abroad.  Your child’s welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration in making a decision.  The Court will look at certain factors including the child’s wishes (dependent on the child’s age and understanding) and any risk to the child.  To be successful on an application like this therefore you need to show that you have thought carefully about the holiday and that the child will be returned safely at the end of the trip.  Provided the child will be safe and the plan is well thought through, the Court is likely to agree to a child going abroad to enjoy time with their parent and see the world.

A good tip with all of this is to start discussions with the other parent as soon as possible, to allow time to reach agreement before the summer holidays.  That way you all know what is happening and you can start to relax and look forward to your time away.

To discuss this, or any other Family Law related matter, please contact Ellie directly on 01483 887766, email info@hartbrown.co.uk or start a live chat today.

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Ellie Newbery

Consultant, Family Law

Ellie’s strength lies in her clear, sensible and collaborative approach to gain the best outcomes for her clients and their families. Ellie advises clients on...

Ellie Newbery- Family Law

Consultant, Family Law

Ellie Newbery

Ellie’s strength lies in her clear, sensible and collaborative approach to gain the best outcomes for her clients and their families.

Ellie advises clients on the best route to reach agreement on the decisions that need to be made on divorce, matrimonial finance and children. Her main focus area lies in divorce and complex financial remedy cases, for high-net-worth and middle-income clients. She has previously been accredited Resolution Accredited Specialist in this area, as well as in Private Law Children work achieving an award for highest marks in the country in her core paper.

Ellie acts for parents in private law applications and negotiations across issues including child arrangements, change of school, removal from the jurisdiction and parental responsibility. She assists clients in resolving disputes about where the children will live and who they will spend time with. Ellie also assists unmarried separating couples.

Ellie qualified as a family solicitor in 2008 after reading history at Durham University and worked in Kent, Surrey and London before joining Hart Brown in 2021. Ellie has been a member of the Surrey Resolution Committee since 2015.