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Christmas Considerations For Separated Families: Can I Take My Children Abroad For Christmas?

For many families, Christmas traditions often involve spending time with loved ones, and this could mean travelling overseas to enjoy the festivities with extended family members or friends. For separated parents, Christmas in particular may be difficult to arrange, with both parents wanting to spend time with their children over the holiday.

There is no one size fits all approach for the arrangements that families may wish to make over Christmas, with some parents opting to spend time with the children at Christmas on alternate years, with others splitting their time on Christmas day between the morning and afternoon. The Christmas holidays do tend to involve more consideration than most, especially if it involves spending Christmas abroad. 

Whatever the proposed arrangements, consideration should always be given to the wishes and feelings of the children and where they may want to spend Christmas. However, if an agreement cannot be reached and no Court Order setting out the arrangements is in place, then it is not possible to take the children out of the country without the permission of the other parent and / or with whom has parental responsibility. 

Parental responsibility 

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility of a child.  Father’s will have automatic parental responsibility if they were married to the mother when the child was born, or they are named on the child’s birth certificate. 

When do you not need permission?

In instances where both parents have parental responsibility, you may not need permission from the other parent if you have a Child Arrangements Order that either sets out the Christmas arrangements and / or states that the child or children “lives with” you. In these circumstances the parent with whom the child / children “lives with” may take their child overseas for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent or permission from the Court. However, it is advisable to seek the agreement of the other parent in the first instance and that you share the details of any planned trip with them. In circumstances where the opposing parent may not wish for this to happen, then it is possible for them to apply to the Court for a ‘Prohibited Steps Order’ preventing the parent from taking the child abroad. 

Taking your children out of the country without the necessary consent will be considered child abduction and is a criminal offence which can have serious consequences. It is therefore extremely important to obtain the appropriate consent before removing your child from the jurisdiction. 

Obtaining permission to travel abroad 

If no there is not a Child Arrangement ‘lives with’ Order in place, then one of the following will need to apply:

  1. The parents reach an agreement and consent is obtained. 
  2. If the above fails, then the parent wishing to take the children abroad will need to apply to the Court for a “Specific Issue Order“ requesting permission from the Court to take the children outside of the UK.

The application should clearly set out the travel plans for the children and include as much detail as possible such as where the children will be staying, flight details and return details. When dealing with the application, the Court will consider whether taking children abroad is in the child’s best interests and careful consideration will also need to be given about whether there is a perceived risk that the child may not be returned to this country at the end of the holiday.

In all cases, permission to travel abroad with a child should be sought as far in advance as possible and enough time must be given for an application to be dealt with by the Court. Given the pressures on the Court there is no guarantee of an application being dealt with this before the anticipated holiday. A sensible alternative which parents may wish to consider is mediation. 

Should you require any guidance or support from a legal perspective, or if you would like further information about our mediation services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our experienced family law practitioners who will be able to assist.