With the school summer holidays fast approaching and the government restrictions lifted, the world of travel and foreign holidays has reopened. However, with news of long queues at airport security, different passports and swapping your EHIC for a GHIC, there are still quite a lot of things to be thinking about, despite the removal of Covid restrictions.
Holidaying abroad with your children can come with many joys and many strains. On one level, it’s a chance to make memories, share fun times together and get away from the stresses of everyday life. However, there can be difficulties as any parent knows! One of the things that can easily get lost in the melee of preparing for your holidays is the vital documentation you need for taking your children abroad if you don’t share the same surname.
This can be for many reasons, like if you are a separated parent, or you are a woman who decided to keep your maiden name when you got married but you are taking the children away without their father.
The traditional family structure is continuing to change, meaning increasing blended families, separated parents, even platonic co-parenting. It is more important than ever to make sure that each party knows their responsibilities so that holidays can go (as far as possible with children!) as smoothly as possible.
There are some important points which you need to consider in such scenarios, due to border controls that are in place to prevent child trafficking and kidnapping.
You must ensure that you are legally permitted to take your child abroad. It is important for you to know whether you are legally permitted or not, as you could be committing a criminal offence (child abduction) if you do not, and the holiday is outside of the UK.
“Abroad” is anywhere outside of the UK. There are 4 countries of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island). However, they do not all share the same legal system, so if you remove a child from one legal system within the UK to another legal system, this may effectively amount to going “abroad”. This can take people by surprise particularly when travelling between, for example, England and Scotland.
If the court has put a child arrangement order in place due to the separation of the parents, it is illegal to take the child out of the UK without the written consent of the other parent (or by someone else who has parental responsibility), or permission of the court.
This is only different in one of two cases. First is if the child arrangement order states that the child should live with you – in this case you can take the child abroad for up to one month without consent from the other parent. The other case is if you are the only parent with parental responsibility and there are no orders in place
Generally, if you’re a separated parent, it’s good practise to ensure you let the other parent know of your plans, even if you don’t necessarily need their consent to go abroad with the children. This can lower the risk of damage to the relationship as well as any worry the other parents would certainly feel if they did not know where the children were!
If permission is needed, it is important to have this in writing and to bring it to the airport as one of the key documents. It is also useful to have a photocopy of the other’s parent’s passport with this to prove their identity. Any evidence you have of your partner or ex-partner’s consent to the trip is useful.
It is also really important to take your child’s birth certificate (or adoption certificate) to prove who they are, and who you are, and any documentation you have if you have changed your name since their birth- like a divorce certificate, or a change of name deed for example. This will make sure that official agencies are satisfied with your relationship to the child or children and a much smoother journey!
Immigration officials may well ask the children themselves about who they are, so it’s worth letting them know that this might happen and to answer honestly but not to worry about it. It goes without saying that joking around with immigration is no laughing matter – save the jokes for when you’re safely on holiday!
It may seem like a lot of things to remember, but having the right documentation is absolutely paramount when you’re trying to travel abroad with children with whom you don’t share a surname. Getting everything ready well in advance of the trip will help to make sure that the whole process is much easier and ensure there are no hold ups which could not only be super stressful, but make you miss your flight.
As the world has opened up again after what seems like forever trapped at home, now is the perfect time to get some proper Vitamin D and take yourself and your family on a summer holiday. Just make sure you have all the right pieces of information and it’ll be a breeze!
Zoe Carter is a Senior Associate at Stowe Family Law