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There are approximately 2.4 million separated families in the UK. When it comes to taking a child away on holiday when you are separated from the other parent, the answer will depend on who has parental responsibility for the child and whether there are any court orders in place regarding contact. In these uncertain times, where travel advice seems to change almost daily, many of us are opting for a ‘staycation’ this year. Here are the rules around whether you need permission from your former partner to take your child on holiday within England and Wales.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is a legal concept that surrounds the duties and rights a parent has to their child. Mothers automatically obtain PR when their child is born. If the biological father of the child is married to the mother, he will also be granted PR when the child is born. If the father is not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth but is added to the birth certificate, he will automatically have PR (after 1st December 2003). If the child was born before 1st December 2003 and is unmarried to the mother, he will not automatically have PR but can obtain it through various routes.

Both parents with parental responsibility – no court order

Many parental separations are agreed upon and sorted out privately between parents. If there is no court order in place specifying contact between the other parents and child must take place at a certain time or a certain amount of times per week, and the holiday would interfere with this, you will not need permission to take your child away on holiday in England and Wales. However, it is always best practice to inform the other parent of your intention to go away and for how long, even though you are not going abroad, to avoid any panic or confusion about the child’s whereabouts.

Both with parental responsibility with a court order

Many parental separations are agreed upon and sorted out privately between parents. If there is no court order in place specifying contact between the other parents and child must take place at a certain time or a certain amount of times per week, and the holiday would interfere with this, you will not need permission to take your child away on holiday in England and Wales. However, it is always best practice to inform the other parent of your intention to go away and for how long, even though you are not going abroad, to avoid any panic or confusion about the child’s whereabouts.

Both with parental responsibility with a court order

The law is primarily concerned with parents removing children from the UK, so you will not require written permission of the other parent in the same way you might need it if you were planning on going abroad with your child. Thus, not having written permission is unlikely to result in you being found guilty of a child abduction offence. However, if both parents have PR and there is a court order for contact that the holiday will prevent from happening, then you will need to ask the other parents permission. If they refuse, then you will have to apply to the court for permission to vary the order. The court will usually grant permission as long as they are satisfied the holiday is in the best interest of the child and there is no uncertainty about the child being returned. However, you must seek the court’s permission as if you don’t, you may be held in contempt of court for breaching a court order.

1 parent with parental responsibility

If you are the sole parent with PR, then you do not need to ask permission from anyone else as you are the only individual with PR and therefore, in the eyes of the law, are solely responsible for the care of your child.

Does this apply to the whole of the UK?

The UK is unique in the fact that different legal systems operate within the country. This advice only applies to taking your children away within England and Wales. Taking your child to Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands (as well as anywhere else in the world) will be considered as taking them ‘abroad’. If the correct rules are not complied with, then you risk committing the criminal offence of child abduction with serious penalties attached.

At Ackroyd, we recognise that disputes around families can be among the most stressful events in life.  Every case has its own unique intricacies to consider, and our skilled and experienced team of family law experts are available to support you through the most sensitive, challenging and complex of cases.

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