Travelling with Children – Legal Issues to Check

Published on 14 Jul 2023

As a travel addict I’m sure I was not alone in wondering, in the midst of the pandemic, if I would ever go on holiday again!

However, having the freedom to move around again, as the fancy takes us, is something we will probably take less for granted now and as the holiday season approaches many families will need an extra checklist on top of the one showing sun-cream, flip-flops and a good beach novel.

This is relevant not only for separated families where the parents of a child do not live together, but also families where the parents are together but the plans for the child involve overseas travel without both parents.

It is also important, where the parents are separated or there are court orders in place, to check the position since, if there are “hiccups”, the main person to be adversely affected is likely to be the child.

For that reason, I have put together an alternative “holiday checklist” when travelling with children.

  1. Who has Parental Responsibility for the child?

Nominally the mother has it, as does the father if he is married to the mother or registered as the child’s father. However, if there are court orders in place other people may have PR and it is important to check.

  1. Do you need the permission of all PR holders to remove the child from the country if you are going abroad?

This will depend on whether there are court orders in place and what sort of order it is – some orders dispense with the need to get the consent of other PR holders for overseas travel for short periods of time

  1. Do you have the permission from people whose consent is needed? – it is preferable to get this in writing, even if the parents are still in a relationship but one parent is travelling alone, or grandparents are taking the child abroad, since immigration authorities will sometimes question the circumstances of the journey.
  2. Take a copy of any court orders with you – if you are going to a country where English is not readily understood then consider getting an official translation of the order into the language of that country.
  3. Even if consent of all PR holders is not needed because you have a court order, it is preferable if you can at least give other PR holders some basic information about the holiday – dates, accommodation and flights (provided it is safe to do so).
  4. Whether your holiday is in the UK or abroad, ensure that your travel plans do not conflict with any court orders for the child to have contact / spend time with other people since you would be in breach of the order, with potentially serious consequences, if your plans prevented that contact from taking place. If you anticipate a difficulty it is sensible to seek early legal advice with a view to negotiating a variation of the plans to allow for holidays to take place.
  5. If it is safe and you consider it is in the child’s best interests to do so, perhaps look at the child having a video call with the other parent when you are away, or bringing back a small gift for them, so they can share the experience with the other parent.
  6. Pack bucket and spade – ah, sorry, that should be on the other list!

Most importantly of all, have a wonderful time, make memories – hopefully the above will assist in achieving that.

If you have any queries regarding the above issues you can contact us by calling 0800 652 3371.

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