I am often asked whether or not one person can take a child out of the country, or whether some form of consent to the child travelling, something people often call ‘child travel consent’, is needed.
The answer depends not only on the relationship between those people with Parental Responsibility (PR) but also on whether a formal court order, known as a Child Arrangements Order, is in place.
If a Child Arrangements Order has been made which specifies that a child is to live with one person, s/he may take that child out of the country for a maximum of 28 days without the consent of anyone else.
If there is not a Child Arrangements Order in place, all people with PR must consent to the child being taken out of the country regardless of the duration of the proposed trip.
Consequences of failure to comply
Those taking a child abroad may be questioned by an airline or immigration officer in the airport about their intentions. The officer may ask for documentary evidence to be produced or request that a parent with the same surname as the child is called to confirm that the child has permission to make the trip. It would therefore be sensible to travel with the Child Arrangements Order (if there is one) so that it can be produced if necessary. If the airline/immigration officer is not satisfied that the child is able to travel, the parent could be refused permission to fly/enter the intended destination.
More seriously, failure to comply with the above rules constitutes child abduction, a criminal offence which is potentially punishable by imprisonment. Whilst some people may find it hard to believe that a person with PR could report a fellow PR holder for child abduction, in some scenarios, particularly where parents have separated in acrimonious circumstances, this is a real risk which can and should be avoided.
Action plan of how to avoid these risks
If you have a Child Arrangements Order in your favour, take it with you when you travel with your child.
If there is not a Child Arrangements Order in your favour:
- Try to obtain the consent of anyone with PR prior to booking the holiday - if given, the consent should be recorded in writing by letter which provides the other PR holder’s contact details and specifics of the holiday. Better still, this information should be contained within a Notarised Consent. This is a document prepared and notarised by a Notary Public. Bear in mind that some countries do require this and a written letter of consent will not suffice;
- If it is not possible to obtain a consent letter for a child to travel abroad, or a Notarised Consent, consider making an application to the court for a Specific Issue Order where the court will decide whether the child can travel on the proposed holiday. The court would not deal with any other arrangements for the child other than this one specific issue. If the application succeeds, a court order will be made stating that the child is able to travel abroad for the particular holiday and a copy of the Specific Issue Order should be taken so that it can be produced if required.
If you are planning on taking a child abroad and the other PR holder is unreasonably withholding consent or if you are concerned that your child may be taken abroad without your consent, please feel free to contact me to discuss this further.
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