Is your surname different from your children? Then you need to read this before you travel abroad…

Cohabitation|Family|Relationships|June 19th 2018

It’s fast approaching peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but for those parents who do not have the same surname, it is a lot more complicated.

Over to guest blogger, Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher who explains what a parent can do about it.

“I first wrote on this subject two years ago and since then have received an inordinate number of questions on this subject. More and more women seem to be affected by this issue as more of us have a different surname to our child. Some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name. Other women are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.

Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take note and take action to avoid unnecessary stress.

The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations to prevent children from being kidnapped are all very understandable but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many women and their children. This can be easily avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. In my personal experience, I have only ever been stopped coming back into the UK but this has happened far more often in the last two years.

So what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly? Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:

Your child’s Birth Certificate – this document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.

Proof of your change of name – this could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.

If you are not travelling with your child’s father I would always ensure that you can prove you have the father’s consent to you taking the child abroad.

If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent to the trip if it is for more than 28 days.

However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.

I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.

Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays!

Author: Emma Newman

Emma joined us in September 2017 and is the Managing Partner of our Esher office. She advises on all aspects of family law and assists clients going through a separation whether they are married, in a civil partnership or unmarried.

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