As borders begin to open (and close) with the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, many Brits have been opting for an overseas vacation, after initially thinking that it would not be possible this summer. Whilst package holidays make this easier than ever, there is one thing that can be more complicated for some families- taking their children abroad. Specifically, where the child’s parents are separated, or where there are more than 2 people that hold parental responsibility for the child in question.
If you wish to take your child abroad, you will need to obtain permission from the other parent, if they hold parental responsibility. This remains true unless you have a Child Arrangements Order (CAO), in which case you do not require permission for trips of a duration of less than one month. Similarly, a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) in your favour waives the requirement of permission for periods of 3 months or less. To maintain good relations, it is advisable to seek permission from the other parent nonetheless where possible.
In order for consent to be valid, you must be open and honest about the duration of time you plan to take your child abroad. Note there may be particular difficulties if the other parent is uncomfortable with their child getting on a plane in the present climate. Any permission provided must be in the form of written consent, to act as evidence should any future issues arise.
Something that may need to be considered is the mandatory quarantine that is enforced by law from popular tourist destinations such as Spain. The 2 week requirement may result in child contact arrangements being compromised, as the quarantine supersedes all other interests. Although there is no official guidance on this, it would be sensible to discuss this with other parent when obtaining permission. It is also important to consider the risks of similar rules being imposed upon visitors of other countries that are currently considered to be ‘safe’, given the volatility of the situation.
If it is not possible to obtain consent from the other parent, the only other option available to you is to apply for permission from the court. If you take your child abroad without the consent of the other parent or the court, you can face a criminal charge under the Child Abduction Act. In deliberating whether consent is unreasonably being withheld, the court will take the child’s welfare into consideration, taking all relevant maters into account. This means that a potential quarantine may make it more difficult in obtaining court consent.
Ultimately, it is most desirable to work with the other parent when planning a vacation. It is also worth mentioning that should the father not have parental responsibility, he can apply for it at any time. Thus, communication when co-parenting is favoured where circumstances allow. More information on the procedure to take a child abroad is available here.