If you have separated or are divorced and wish to take your children abroad to go on holiday, you may be wondering what your legal position is in this situation.
The parent who wishes to take the children on a holiday abroad should always seek the written consent of anyone else with parental responsibility for the children (this is usually the other parent). If the parent who wishes to go on holiday has a residence order that states that the children live with them, then they may take the children abroad without seeking consent, but this must be of a duration of less than one month.
If no residence order exists and the other parent will not consent, the parent who wishes to go on a holiday abroad with the children will have to apply to a court for permission to do so. This is usually granted if the court is happy that the holiday is a genuine holiday to a suitable destination and that the children will be returned when the holiday ends.
Taking your children abroad without the consent of anyone else with parental responsibility or court permission is a criminal offence which may be punishable with a fine or imprisonment.
You should always discuss and agree the holiday with the other parent even when they do not have parental responsibility and, if needs be, go to court or they may ask the court for an order to prevent you from going or to bring the children back immediately once you have departed.
If a court considers that the holiday that you intend to take the children on carries any risk that the children will not be returned to the UK at the end of it they will not allow the travel to another country. The risks outweigh the benefits to the children in cases such as when the parent who is planning the holiday wants to take them to see family and other relatives in that country when they have previously threatened not to return the children to the other parent.
An application to the court can be made urgently by a parent if the other parent has threatened not to return the children and they also have not made an application to the court for permission to take the children abroad.
Aside from all of the legal issues surrounding a trip abroad, also take time to consider how your children will be in contact with the other parent. This is not so much of an issue if it is for a short trip or 7 days but could need to be clarified if it is a longer holiday of up to three weeks, especially if there is less internet availability and so on.
Due to the complexity of the nature of these sort of issues, for detailed information regarding your personal circumstances you should discuss them with a family law specialist.