As family solicitors, we know all too well the stresses travelling abroad with your children when you are divorced can bring.

School holidays can be a stressful time for parents – juggling additional childcare responsibilities with work; changes to the daily routine with children being home and trying to find activities that fill their time but don’t cost the earth.

Where parents are separated this can be made even more difficult trying to ensure each has quality time with the children. The need for cooperation, planning and good communication will be ever more important.

Emotions and financial realities also often come into play with one parent not being able to afford to take the children abroad when the other can; the resentment of having to fit around the other parent’s work/holiday restrictions or children from another relationship; feelings of loss from the past family holidays when together; the guilt or anger in saying no and being blamed for denying the children opportunities etc. All of these factors, and more, can lead to a boiling point of conflict which ultimately only results in the children being caught in the middle.

Do you need the other parents permission?

Most parents won’t have Court Orders to regulate the arrangements and the key to reducing tension and disagreement is to plan ahead with good communication. A schedule that works well for the family during term time is likely to need revision and agreement during holiday periods to enable the children to have holiday time with each parent. If there is going to be a disagreement the sooner you know the sooner you can resolve it for the benefit of the children.

If you are hoping to travel abroad with the children, there are additional considerations. Many parents are unaware that to travel abroad with their children you need the consent of anyone else who has Parental responsibility (typically this is the other parent). If you do not have that permission then you could find yourself facing criminal charges for child abduction. If there is a “Lives with” Order in place that confirms the children live with you then technically you do not require the other parent’s consent to travel abroad for a period of up to 28 days however – you must ensure this does not impact upon the time the children spend with the other parent if there is a Court Order as otherwise, you would be in breach of that Order.

Don’t make the mistake of just going ahead and booking a holiday abroad without consultation with the other parent and making promises to the children about arrangements without having a clear, and agreed, plan as to how the holidays will work in reality.

It is normally advised that even if you believe you can travel without permission (either due to a “lives with Order” or if there are no Orders in place and the other parent does not have parental responsibility) you should still communicate your plans for travel to the other parent so they know where their children will be. By doing this, and remaining respectful and considerate of the other parent, it can work wonders to prevent undermining of successful post-separation parenting by unilateral decision making.

Things to consider when taking a child on holiday after divorce

At Purcell Solicitors we are very experienced in assisting parents in resolving holiday issues – whether by providing legal advice or mediation services. We recommend keeping in mind these key issues when considering holiday arrangements:

  • Organisation – being organised well in advance will help stop additional stress and worry, and plan dates, activities and financial implications.
  • Communication – communicate, where possible, directly with the other parent and not through the children. Put aside personal feelings and concentrate on putting the children, and their needs, first.
  • Information – where you wish to take the children away on holiday it is helpful to provide additional information about your potential trip such as where you intend to go, details of proposed travel time and plans, who you are going with and a general outline of what you intend to do. This can often assist the other parent in ensuring the child is the focus and what the benefits of the holiday planned would be for the children (as it remains about what is in the children’s best interests). The other parent should also have contact details in case of emergency.
  • Flexibility – be respectful of the other parent, and recognise that there may be outside pressures (such as work) which limit the ability of one parent to offer many options for how the holidays should be shared. Whilst there is no obligation to “swap days” suggesting alternatives for the other parent to see the children can often eliminate potential issues that can arise from a request for extended time with the children. Recognise that both parents will want to spend quality time with the children over the extended breaks and that cooperation and compromise are necessary tools.
  • Questioning – In some cases, the children could be asked questions by immigration officials so, depending on their age and maturity, you may wish to explain that this would be nothing to worry about and they should provide honest answers.
  • Documentation – not only will you need to consider the obvious issue if considering a holiday abroad or when and how passports are handed over but you could well be asked by airport officials for evidence of the permission to travel with the children and even your relationship with them. Better to have the documentation and not require it than to be at passport control and be denied entry. Typically the relevant documentation advised is:
  • Written consent from the other parent and their contact details
  • Proof of your relationship with the children – such as a birth or adoption certificate.
  • If you have a different surname to your child that is not on their birth certificate e.g. your name has changed since their birth – take additional evidence to confirm your relationship for example a copy of your marriage certificate or Decree Absolute/Final Order in divorce or change of name deed etc
  • Specifics of your trip
  • You should also check your proposed destination as to whether they have any additional entry requirements – carrying the right documentation can ease stress and upset or worse a cancelled holiday.

Be prepared and plan in advance

Timing is crucial. Don’t leave these issues until a week before a planned trip – take time to ensure both of you feel heard in any dispute and can work towards an agreed resolution. Conflict arises most often when the other parent feels backed into a corner over arrangements they have no control over and this could result in expensive Court or Arbitration applications which should be avoided as far as possible and only used in circumstances of genuine disagreement, exceptional cases and as a measure of last resort.

What can you do if you can’t reach a direct agreement?

If you’re unable to agree on the arrangements in direct discussions/communication then you should consider whether mediation is appropriate. Mediation provides an opportunity to explore all issues in a non-confrontational manner with assistance from an independent and impartial mediator who helps you to discuss the issues between you and reach a bespoke agreement that suits your individual family needs. Mediation can be a great success and the advantage is that you, as parents, retain full control over the arrangements for your family. It also has the advantage of being a flexible and cheaper alternative to Arbitration or Court litigation where the procedures can be consuming and costly- both emotionally and financially.

If mediation is not suitable then other alternatives would be to try a more collaborative approach – either formally using a collaborative law process whereby all discussions take place around the table with specially trained advisors or negotiation through solicitors either by round table meetings, correspondence or otherwise.

Disclaimer: Please note that this page is for guidance only and does not replace legal advice. It is correct with the law at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation – contact us for dedicated help for you.

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