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Separated Parents’ Holiday Rights in the UK

While holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, for separated parents who need permission to take their child on holiday, it can be anything but. According to government statistics, as of the end of 2021, there are in the region of 2.3 million separated families in Great Britain, with 3.6 million children within those separated families. Given that there are around 12.7 million children in the UK in total, this represents a sizeable proportion.

Reaching an agreement on taking a child on a break outside the UK requires compromise and understanding from both parties, but what can you do when this is in short supply? We’re here to help you understand separated parents’ holiday rights in the UK!

20 October 2022
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Who has parental responsibility for a child?

Parental responsibility refers to the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority of a parent towards their children. A person with parental responsibility effectively ‘stands in the shoes' of a parent when caring for and making decisions for the child, including in relation to where they live and spend their time and their education and medical treatment.
Section 2 of the Children Act 1989 states that where a child is born to parents who are married or in a civil partnership together, both have automatic parental responsibility (unless the courts say otherwise). Where a child is born to parents who are not married or in a civil partnership together, it is the mother who automatically has parental responsibility for them; however, the father can acquire this in certain circumstances. This is important because any agreement on taking a child on holiday must be made by those with parental responsibility. 

What are my rights as a separated parent if I want to take my child on holiday?

When it comes to separated parents’ holiday rights in the UK, in general, a mother and a father with parental responsibility can take their child on holiday, both in and outside of the UK. Where both parents have responsibility for the child, written permission should be gained from the other partner before taking them on holiday. However:

  • Where a parent wishes to take their child on holiday, but they do not have parental responsibility for the child, they must gain written consent from everyone with parental responsibility to do so. Where a parent wishes to take their child on holiday and they have parental responsibility, but the other parent does not, it is still advisable to gain permission from the other parent.
  • Where a Child Arrangements Order is in place, unless it specifies otherwise, you can take your child outside of the UK for up to 28 days without seeking permission. In this case, the parent who is taking the child on holiday must have parental responsibility, and the Child Arrangement Order should state that the child lives with them.

You may be asked to show your letter of permission allowing your child outside the UK, at the domestic border or foreign border; this should include:

  • The contact details of the other parent (or other person/s with parental responsibility)
  • Specific details of the holiday (to ensure that the letter relates to the current trip outside the UK).

Taking a child on holiday outside the UK without the necessary permission from those with parental responsibility constitutes child abduction. If you have parental responsibility and your child has been taken outside of the UK without your permission, contact the police immediately and engage the services of a family law Solicitor who will ensure the legal mechanisms are put in place to have your child repatriated as soon as possible. 

What if I cannot get permission to take my child on holiday?

If you cannot get permission to take your child out of the UK on holiday from the person/s with parental responsibility, there are two main routes to resolve the matter. 

  • Use mediation or another non-contentious dispute resolution method (also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution) to find an agreement with the other parent. Many family law Solicitors specialise in Alternative Dispute Resolution and can help you to reach a mutually agreeable outcome outside of the court system. This is preferable to taking court action as it ensures that the ongoing relationship between the parents is preserved for the benefit of the child.
  • Apply to a court for a Specific Issue Order (SIO) to take your child out of the UK. A family law Solicitor can advise whether an application for a court order is likely to be successful and, if so, prepare and submit the documents to the court on your behalf.

Final words on Separated Parents’ Holiday Rights

It is important to gain the necessary permission if you have divorced or separated from your ex-partner and you wish to take your child on holiday. If you are unsure of your separated parents’ holiday rights, seek the advice of a family law Solicitor. Likewise, if you are concerned that your ex-partner may take your child on holiday without your permission, a family law Solicitor can advise on appropriate measures to prevent this from happening, such as a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order. If you are looking to take your child out of school during the school term, take a look at our recent blog that tells you everything you need to know about term-time holidays.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced team of family law Solicitors who can assist you with any legal matter relating to holiday arrangements for separated parents. Get in touch with us today or, to make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.