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Abduction  |  Child Abduction  |  Child law  |  Family law

Do I need permission to take my child abroad?

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Walker Family Law
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Child looking out windowThere are times when a parent will want to take their child abroad, whether it be for a holiday, or a permanent relocation to another country.

Whatever the reason for taking the child abroad, the parent will require the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for the child (preferably in writing), or of the court.

And taking a child abroad without permission is the criminal offence of child abduction, so it is vital that the parent knows and understands the legal position. (Note that abduction refers to taking the child out of the UK – it is not an offence to take a child to another country within the UK.)

Who has parental responsibility?

So if you require the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for the child, the next question is: who has parental responsibility?

To answer the question we need to consider how parental responsibility is acquired.

The mother of the child will always acquire parental responsibility automatically.

The child’s father will also acquire parental responsibility if he is married to the mother, or is named as the father on the child’s birth certificate.

Otherwise, the father can acquire parental responsibility with the mother’s agreement, or by obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court.

If the child is adopted the birth parents will lose parental responsibility, and the adopters will acquire it.

Apart from the parents, parental responsibility may be held by anyone who has been granted it by a court, by a legal guardian for the child, and by the local authority if a care order has been made.

This is just a brief outline of the law on acquiring parental responsibility. If in doubt as to who else has parental responsibility for your child, seek expert legal advice.

Lives with child arrangements orders

There is an exception to the requirement to obtain permission, where the parent wishes to take the child abroad for a holiday.

If that parent has a child arrangements order in their favour stating that the child should live with them, or a residence order made before the 22nd of April 2014, then they may take the child abroad for up to 28 days without needing to obtain permission, unless the order specifically prohibits this.

Will the court grant permission?

The last question to answer is: if the person(s) with parental responsibility does not give permission, will the court grant permission?

As usual with any question relating to children, the court will make its decision on the basis of what it considers to be best for the welfare of the child.

And in considering what is best for the welfare of the child the court will take into account certain factors, including the ascertainable wishes of the child (considered in the light of their age and understanding), the child’s needs, the likely effect on the child of going abroad, and any harm that the child is at risk of suffering.

So far as holidays are concerned, the court will normally take the view that the holiday is likely to be beneficial for the child, and will therefore grant permission, so long as the holiday is for a reasonable duration, is to a safe location, and there is no risk that the child will not be returned.

Obtaining permission to permanently relocate is obviously a more serious matter. It will still be decided by the court by reference to the child’s welfare, although other factors may be taken into account, such as the reasons for the relocation, and the effect upon the parent wishing to relocate of refusing to grant permission.

If you need to apply to a court for permission to take a child abroad you should seek expert legal advice, especially if you wish to permanently relocate to another country.

How can we help?

For further information, please see the Child Arrangements page.

Walker Family Law is an award-winning family law practice, recognised as one of the leading family law firms in the South West of England with services covering family law & mediationdivorce lawchild-law and arbitration.

Please contact us if you require any further information.