Travelling abroad with children if you are separated or divorced


Date: 22 June 2022

A divorced parent takes his daughter on a foreign holiday

The holiday season is well and truly upon us, and it’s a time of year when legal firms like Major Family Law are commonly asked about travelling abroad with children if you are separated or divorced. We’ve put together a handy list of the main points that you need to be aware of before you organise your vacation with your children.


It is essential to obtain the permission of every individual who has parental responsibility for a child or children before you can take them abroad. If it is not possible to do this, you must obtain permission from the family court. Failing to do this constitutes child abduction. This applies even if you are a parent of the child/children. The easiest way to achieve this is to have an amicable conversation with the other parent/carer about what you want to do, where and when. It is usually the case that conflict arises when these things come as a surprise or there is a lack clarity. Be as transparent as you can about your plans and reinforce the benefits for the child.

Child Arrangement Orders

If you already have a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that you have full custody of the child and that they live with you on a permanent basis, you do not need permission, as long as you are taking them abroad for less than 28 days. You should also check that the court has not stipulated otherwise on any childcare order. If there is no CAO in place, then written permission from everyone with Parental Responsibility is required. This permission will need to accompany you on your travels.

Communicate in good time

Make sure that you communicate with the other people who have parental responsibility about your travel plans, giving them as much notice as possible. If they object to the child going on holiday abroad with you then they can potentially apply to the Court to prevent you from taking your child, or children, on the trip. As mentioned earlier though, you are also within your rights to apply to the Court to obtain permission to take the children on holiday via a Specific Issue Order if you think there may be unnecessary objections.

Specific Issue Order

If you feel that permission has been withheld unreasonably by someone with Parental Responsibility, then you have the option to apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order. The court has the power to make decisions on specific matters, such as holidays, when parents fail to agree. They base their decision on what is in the best interests of the child, having received information from all parties. They will look at factors such as the length of stay abroad and the destination, and if they are deemed acceptable. Specific Issue Orders can be applied for on an emergency basis but it is better for all concerned if the matters are resolved beforehand.

Check specific requirements

There is some variation between different countries on the matter, so it is helpful to check the specific requirements for the country you are travelling to, as some countries insist on the completion of certain forms or signed and witnessed written permission for the children to travel with you. It is also advisable to check the age limit of when a person is considered a child in the destination country, as this can vary.

My child doesn’t have the same surname

If your child has a different surname to you, then it is strongly recommended that you also take their birth certificate on holiday with you, to prove your parental status if necessary. This has been known to be challenged by border officials in some instances and can result in unnecessary difficulties. Likewise, if you have a Court Order or Parental Responsibility Agreement, then take this with you as well.

Take all relevant paperwork with you

Finally, and most importantly, when you are travelling abroad, ensure that you take all the relevant paperwork detailing the consent of all parties with Parental Responsibility with you. Keep these documents very safe as you could be required to prove that you have the relevant permission, which means taking letters from all persons who hold Parental Responsibility with you.

The letters need to include the other party’s contact information and all the relevant details about the holiday so that it is abundantly clear that they have understood what they were agreeing to. Although this may seem a bit extensive and draconian, it is vital to the protection of children and therefore a relatively small inconvenience. It is advisable to make use of your hotel safe to store this documentation during your stay. 

Copyright 2022. Article was made possible by site supporter Paul Gordon of 720 Digital Ltd.

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