Can I go on holiday with my child without my ex-partner's permission?

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The summer holidays are fast-approaching and, whilst the biggest issue for many families will be deciding which destination has the nicest beaches, it may be an altogether more complicated matter for single parents looking to do the same without igniting tensions with their ex-partner.

When thinking about going on holiday, it is worth being aware of your basic legal position as the parent with whom your child lives permanently. Your legal position as this parent can differ from that of your ex-partner. Whilst your ex-partner may also be the parent of your child, this does not automatically grant them the right in law to have a say when you want to take your child abroad. In order to do so, they must have parental responsibility of the child. Whilst a mother automatically holds parental responsibility, this will not always be the case for a father[1]. It is also worth considering whether the Court has made a Child Arrangements Order naming you as the parent with whom your child will live on a day-to-day basis[2].

Once you understand your basic rights and responsibilities, you need to think about how long you want to go abroad for. The law allows a parent with a Child Arrangements Order to take their child abroad for less than four weeks at a time, without needing to obtain written consent beforehand of anyone else holding parental responsibility, or the Court's permission. Therefore, you should be free to take your child on a short holiday if they live with you under a Child Arrangement Order. Nonetheless, you might still want to think about keeping your ex-partner informed of your plans as a matter of courtesy and good practice.

If you are looking to go abroad for longer than four weeks, the situation will be more complicated, although not impossible. You have the right to apply for a Specific Issue Order, an Order which, as its name implies, is made by the Court deciding a particular matter related to the child's welfare. These Orders can cover a vast array of different welfare-related matters, including whether a parent should be given permission to take their child out of the country for longer than four weeks. When considering an application for permission to do so, the Court approaches the question with the child's welfare as its paramount consideration, and uses a checklist of factors relating to welfare to reach its decision. Pursuing this route is however a fairly aggressive approach to take which can also cost a lot of time and money. If you find yourself in this situation, trying to reach an agreement through discussions in mediation, or through negotiations, may instead be an altogether more constructive way of approaching the issue.


[1] For further information as to how parental responsibility can be acquired, please see Laura Bennett's article "Acquiring Parental Responsibility".

[2] A Child Arrangements Order is an Order of the Court outlining who the child is to live with on a day-to-day basis. It may additionally outline contact arrangements.