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What is parental responsibility?

The key phrase in separated parents holiday right is ‘parental responsibility’.

Mothers who give birth to a child automatically have parental responsibility. If they are married or in a civil partnership, their spouse will also have parental responsibility. If the parents are unmarried, the biological father can get parental responsibility upon registering the birth and being named on the birth certificate or seeking a parental responsibility order from the court.

Parental responsibility remains intact even after divorce.

Although only two legal parents are permitted in England and Wales, multiple people can have parental responsibility if it is granted by the court, for example grandparents if the child lives with them.

If you are unsure if you have parental responsibility or would like to have a court order in place, you must seek legal advice.

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Common questions about separated parents’ holiday rights

Common questions about separated parents’ holiday rights

  • I’m divorced/going through divorce – can I take my children on holiday without the other parent?

    You can take your children out of England and Wales without the other parent as long as you have permission from everyone who has parental responsibility.

    If you are the child/children’s mother, you automatically have parental responsibility. If you were married or in a civil partnership with the mother when the child was born, you automatically have parental responsibility. This is not lost during divorce or separation unless the court orders it. Therefore, you both have Separated Parent’s Holiday Rights.

    If you are unsure of whether you have parental responsibility, because you were not married or in a civil partnership, you must seek legal advice before attempting to take any children on holiday.

    If you have the permission of the other parent/anyone with parental responsibility, you can take your children on holiday without the other parent. It is important to get the permission in written form so you can prove that it was given.

  • My children don’t have my surname, can I still take them abroad?

    Providing you have the permission of the other parent, or anyone with parental responsibility, you can take your children abroad even if you don’t share their surname.

    This applies to divorced parents, where the mother has reverted to using her maiden name, or has remarried; or for couples who decide not to share a surname.

    However, it is important that you have the relevant documentation with you for any trips abroad to prove you are a legal guardian. This may include written consent from the other parent giving their permission for the child/children’s travel, the child’s birth certificate, and proof of name change if this has altered since the birth of the child.

  • Can my ex take my children on holiday without my permission?

    If you are separated or divorced, your ex-partner/spouse can take the children on holiday within England and Wales, providing they have parental responsibility i.e., they are the legally recognised parent or have been granted parental responsibility by the court.

    They will not legally need your permission to do so. It is, however, recommended that they do seek permission.

    For any holidays outside of England and Wales, whether to Scotland or further abroad, your ex will need your permission, and the permission of anyone else with parental responsibility, to take children away.

  • Do I need my ex’s permission to take my children on holiday in the UK?

    No, but it is good practice to get permission from your ex and to inform them of your holiday plans. If you are unsure of whether you need permission, seek legal advice.

  • Can my ex stop me taking my children on holiday?

    Your ex can refuse to give permission for you to take your children on holiday if they have parental responsibility. If this happens, you will need to seek permission from the court before travelling.

  • What are the legal implications of taking children abroad without permission?

    If you take your children abroad without permission from the other parent/anyone with parental responsibility, you risk allegations of child abduction. This could be a Child Abduction offence.

  • What if I have a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence order?

    If you have a Child Arrangements Order that confirms the child/children “live with” you, the situation is different. This permits you to take your child/children on holiday without any permission. However, there is a limit of 28 days and the holiday must not interfere with the child/children’s time with the other parent. If the Child Arrangements Order confirms that the child/children “spends time with” you, then you must seek the other parent’s permission before travel.

    If the court has specifically told you that you cannot travel with the child/children, then you will need to seek the court’s permission to take your children on holiday.

    What documentation will I need to take my children abroad?

    There may be a number of additional documents needed on top of the usual passport, border pass, etc, at border control if you are taking your children abroad and you are separated or divorced. These may include:

    • The child’s birth certificate, as well as their passport
    • Proof of your name and any changes to it (e.g. reverting to your maiden name after divorce)
    • Written permission from anyone else with parental responsibility
    • Any documents required by the country you are travelling to (you should always check the consulate website for the country of travel to confirm)
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Liza is based in our Winchester & Southampton offices and is experienced in divorce, financial matters, and legal issues issues involving children.

Date last reviewed: 26/06/2024

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