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Travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname

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It’s 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 travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.

Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.

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 action to avoid unnecessary stress.

What is in a surname?

Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others 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.

The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?

Documents you may need

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.

Prepare your children

You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes.  When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was.  It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.

Consent to travel

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

If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK 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!

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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  1. Lorraine Joomun says:

    we are taking a child abroad on holiday, has a different name to the child, the child has a double barrelled name that includes the mothers surname and the fathers surname.
    There has been no contact with the father since the child was a baby he is now 6 yrs old. The mother has no idea where the father is, he does not have any access to the child, no payments or never been to court for access rights.
    The mother has a new partner and they have a child who is 3yrs with the same name as the partner. The mother, partner and both children are going on this holiday to Mauritius
    What documentation will the mother need to take the 6yr old on holiday

  2. Julie watts says:

    Hi I dint no what to do my birth name which is in birth cert is watts but i grew up in the name Dee which i thought i was a Dee so when my child was born i put on his birth cert Dee but later found out I’m wasnt a Dee so my passport is in watts but in my son birthcert my name is Dee

  3. Lisa says:

    Hi, where does the information on the following sentence come from please? “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’m a foreigner living in the UK and my children have their father’s surname. I have traveled many times abroad with my children and the customs always only required the birth certificate. They be never asked for a permission letter from the father. Thanks for clarifying this point.

  4. Lu says:

    Hello Emma. My daughter is an SA citizen but her boyfriend and father of her child is on a British passport. If she registers her child with her surname and biological father also on the birth certificate, will the child still have eligibility for a British passport?

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Thank you for your enquiry. I have passed your details on to our Client Care team who will be in touch. Best wishes.

  5. Codra Gavi says:

    I was married and before my i came to the UK i had changed my identification as we have a system in Zimbabwe. However my passport was in my maiden name. That is the surname i have always used in the UK.
    My passport expired and to get a new passport It will come with my married name. The problem is I am already going through a divorce and did not see the need to carry the name, as my maiden name is on my biometric and passport will carry my ex husbands name. I did not want the hustle of changing my biometric which is a hustle altogether and change it again after the divorce. Can I travel with an affidavit with all the documents(divorce summons, marriage certificate, old passport )

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Codra. Thank you for your query. I have passed this on to our Client Care team who will be in touch. Best wishes.

  6. Marzena Frankowska says:

    We expecting a baby girl with my partner soon. I’m Polish and his English. He is really excited to give her his surname however I’m worried that it will cause a trouble in the future for me. If I agree do I need his consent every time I want take my daughter to abroad ???

    • Asia says:

      Hello, if you are travelling with you partner no consent is needed. Otherwise, yes, consent is needed in case you are asked. If you take your daughters birth certificate when you travel it will show your names and the fathers names and your daughters names so all will be ok. Wishing you an easy birth! Pozdrawiam!

  7. Jessica says:

    I’m meant to be travelling next year with my daughter who’s dad has vanished changed numbers etc but her last name is a double barrel of his and my last names.
    I have since gone on to have met my lifelong partner and have a child with his last name.
    I physically can’t find him to gain contact with him nor can social services as they want to investigate him. Will we have an issue travelling as we have this big family holiday booked for next year.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi. Thanks for your question which I’ve passed to our Client Care team who will be in touch. Kind regards

  8. stacy says:

    I’m currently filling in the application for my child’s passport and am wondering…….why on earth is there no option to add the parent with the different surname to the passport?…….i mean, am i missing something?

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