Legally, a child cannot be taken out of the UK, whether it is for a short trip or a permanent relocation, without the explicit consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child or if consent cannot be obtained or is not being provided a court order is required.
Taking a child abroad without explicit consent, permission or a court order is a criminal offence of child abduction.
You will have parental responsibility if:
- You are the child's mother;
- You are the child's father and you are married to the mother;
- You are the child's father and you are named on the birth certificate (if the child is born after 1 December 2003);
- You have a child arrangement order for the child to live with you (previously known as a residence order);
- You have a parental responsibility order or a parental responsibility agreement.
What do I do if the other party does agree?
If the other party does agree it is recommended that you have a formal letter with contact details for the other party in the event that you are stopped at the border.
Some countries, such as South Africa, require such a letter to follow their legal requirements and for certain documents to accompany the traveller (for example birth certificates) - it is therefore to check the requirements of the country you are travelling to before departure and preparation of the consent letter.
If you cannot agree the contents of the letter or you do not know how to prepare it you can contact our expert solicitors to prepare this for you to ensure that it includes all the relevant information to avoid problems during the travel abroad.
What if the other party does not consent?
If you have a child arrangement order for the child to live with you (previously known as a residence order) you can take a child out of the UK for up to one month without requiring permission.
If you do not have such an order, and the other party refuses to consent then you can consider applying to court for a specific issue order an the court can make a decision that is in the child's best interests. Refusal of travel must provide a reasonable justification for refusing travel abroad - such reasons could be travel to a dangerous country or if there is a risk that the child will not be returned to the UK.
What do I do next?
It is highly recommended that you speak to a qualified children solicitor before making travel decisions for a child.