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Summer holiday myths: advice for ex-partners travelling with children

May 1st 2024

Summer is coming and families are starting to get excited about trips to warmer climes.

Sadly, the summer months are often a time when hostilities between ex-partners peak and we get an increase in enquiries from parents who are unaware of what they can and cannot do when wanting to book time away with their kids.

There are plenty of misconceptions around holidays, so let’s bust some myths around taking the kids on holiday.

They’re my kids, I can take them away if I want

If you are separated parents, the best case scenario is that you try to work together to put in place a timetable for the year if you can as to who will have the children when and agree on any specific holidays.

If you can`t agree, depending on your circumstances and who has parental responsibility (PR) for the children, you may need to go to court to get permission to take them on holiday abroad or to stop the other parent taking them on holiday abroad.

A mother will always have parental responsibility but she will still need the permission of anyone else with PR to take the children abroad, or an order from the Family Court.

Fathers and civil partners can acquire PR in many ways including by agreement with the mother or an order of the court. For either parent, taking a child abroad without the permission of the other parent is child abduction.

The court will sort the matter out and we can still go on holiday this summer

While this may be the case if the court considers that a holiday is in the best interests of the children, applications take time and costs are high so you will need to talk to your ex well in advance of considering holiday bookings to seek agreement.

Urgent applications can be considered if there’s a good reason but don’t get caught out booking a holiday thinking that a court is guaranteed to order in your favour – you may be disappointed!

I’ve paid for my holiday so there’s nothing my ex can do to stop us going

Booking and paying for a holiday without the consent of the other party with PR or an order of the court is a big risk to take, and sadly there have been instances where parents lose their money spent on holidays as they haven’t been able to acquire the required consent or an order.

I’m off for two weeks so I’m taking the kids away to Spain for that fortnight

Sadly, there are situations where couples have the same dates booked off work and both want to take the kids away at the same time (for example, factory shutdown fortnight).

This is why it is so important to work together as parents well in advance to avoid difficulties.

If you can`t agree then the court will need to decide and this may well mean that any holiday clash is split between both parents or you alternate the clashing holiday period each year.

I’ve got parental responsibility and I can take my kids anywhere in the world

Those with PR have a wide discretion as to how they use it – the Family Court doesn’t intervene in family life unless it absolutely has to.

This can often mean that separated parents disagree about what is safe and appropriate for their children and we often see this when parents are booking holidays.

If you have PR and the other parent asks you to agree that they can take the children on holiday then you can withhold your consent but should not do so “unreasonably”.

What this means in reality is that when one parent seeks consent from the other they should provide that parent with the necessary information so that they can consider it properly and provide informed consent.

Sometimes a parent may not provide consent and for good reason. It’s important to be clear why you aren’t agreeing and try to work with the other parent to reach a compromise. An example of this might be a parent who wants to take children on holiday to their homeland but that country may not be safe due to war or terrorist threat.

I’m the mother and nobody can stop me

While it’s true that mothers have automatic PR, issues can arise where consent is given but the surnames of the children differ from mum’s. If this is the case it is best to seek advice to ensure you have the correct documentation so that your trip runs smoothly.

If you think you need advice on any of these issues then don’t delay in seeking it – summer is just round the corner and we are always happy to help.

Jo Grey can be contacted at joanne.grey@cartmells.co.uk.

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