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Family law: Summer Holidays and Passport Handovers

With the summer holidays fast approaching, many families have started their preparations for family holidays abroad. Whilst this should be an exciting time, for parents who are no longer together, making arrangements for international holidays can be stressful and disputes sometimes arise.

There are often issues around possession of a child’s passport, and refusal to hand over the passport can be a way to disrupt the other parent’s plans with the child. We’ve provided some advice to help you navigate through the potential difficulties you may face when it comes to holidays.  

Do I need the other parent’s permission to take my child on holiday?

The consent of every person with parental responsibility is required to take a child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales on holiday, unless the court has given permission. It is a criminal offence to not obtain consent. If a Child Arrangements Order has been made that a child is to live with one parent, then that person can take the child out of the UK on holiday for up to one month.

However, it is better to be transparent with the other parents about these arrangements and if any time is missed with the parent who is not going on holiday, then thought has to be given as to how that time can be made up. If there is an Order defining the time that the other parent spends with the child, removing the child for up to a month without consent could lead to a breach of the Court Order.

The other parent has agreed I can take my child on holiday abroad, what shall I do now?

With the other parent’s consent you can now make plans to book your holiday abroad. If your child’s passport is not in your possession, it is best to make sure that the other parent provides the passport at least 2 weeks in advance. This way, if there is an issue with the handover, there will be enough time to consult a solicitor and take steps to obtain it.

Problems often occur when communication has broken down. Speak to the other parent about your plans for the holiday. Provide the other parent with the essential information about the holiday including date and times of travel, flight numbers and details about your hotel and accommodation. Communicating the basic details of your trip can help prevent a breakdown in communication and consequent issues such as not providing the passport.


The other parent has refused to hand over my child’s passport, what shall I do?

You should consult a solicitor without delay. If there is time before the holiday, a solicitor will often refer the dispute to mediation to avoid the financial and emotional burden of attending Court. Mediation would seek to resolve these issues and establish the terms for who keeps the passport, when it will be given to the other parent and when it should be returned at the end of the holiday.

If an agreement cannot be reached at mediation or if there is not enough time, an application can be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order to order the handover of the child’s passport.

What will happen if this dispute goes to Court? 

In order to make an application for a Specific Issue Order, you would need to fill in Form C100 and submit this to the Court. You will be asking the Court for permission to take the child on holiday and for their passport to be released. These applications can be made urgently if your holiday is taking place imminently. 

The application would be considered by the Court, whose paramount consideration is always the welfare of the child concerned. In our experience, holidays are usually considered to be in the best interests of the child. Providing there is no reason to suggest the child would be unsafe or there was a risk of them not being returned, the Court will make such Order.

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