Taking children abroad

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Health Assured team

19 June 2019

Arranging family holidays after separation or divorce can lead to difficulties if there is a disagreement between parents surrounding holiday plans.


In England and Wales, if there are no court orders in place and both parents have parental responsibility, neither can take the child out of the UK without appropriate consent from the other, or a Court order. When leaving the UK, border control in the UK, or foreign borders may request to see such consent. It is therefore recommended to seek consent in writing, whilst keeping emergency contact details and necessary information regarding the details of the holiday documented.


It is however always best to discuss holiday plans with all whom have parental responsibility in advance and notify them of the intent to travel outside of the UK. If permission to take a child abroad is not obtained, those with parental responsibility should first try to resolve any disagreements through family mediation. If one party refuses to engage in mediation or a compromise cannot be met, the matter can be escalated to the Court to make a decision about the trip. The Court will consider the application on its individual merits, taking into account:


  • The best interests of the child
  • The duration of the trip
  • The date of intended departure
  • Trip destination
  • Any reasons put forward by the responding party disputing the trip.


If, however there is a Child Arrangements Order already in place, specifying that the child should live with one parent, then the parent who the order is in favour of is permitted to take the child outside of the UK for up to 28 days without consent. Taking the Court Order itself on the trip is often advisable as documented evidence may be requested from border control when travelling.


Child abduction – steps to take:

If a child is taken outside of the UK without consent of the other parent, this may be considered as child abduction and an offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984. If there is a threat of child abduction, or concerns abduction has taken place, follow the guidance below:


  • Contact the police - they will liaise with and work alongside Interpol, an international policing organisation who will assist to locate the child.
  • The Hague Convention - is an international agreement between multiple countries to protect children from international abduction and promptly return abducted children to their country of residence. If the country in question is a member of The Hague Convention, you should contact the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU).
  • Contact Reunite - an independent charitable organisation who specialise in providing advice relating to child abduction.
  • Contact the Foreign Commonwealth Office - who can assist in finding overseas family law specialists, contact relevant authorities and help with local travel information.



The law in Scotland surrounding this matter is governed by the Child Abduction Act 1984 and the previous guidance regarding steps to take in the event of child abduction is applicable.


Similarly to England and Wales, if there is a disagreement regarding this matter, mediation should be considered in the first instance before making a Specific Issue Order under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. To find an appropriate mediator, contact Relationships Scotland.


Northern Ireland:

The Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 states that it is a criminal offence to remove a child from the UK without permission from everyone with parental responsibility under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.


Republic of Ireland:

Permission to travel abroad with a child is required from anyone with rights of custody. In Ireland, child abduction is a criminal offence under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. The Hague Convention was incorporated into the law in Ireland under the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1991.


If you want to know more about any of the topics mentioned in this article, please call our free 24-hour helpline on:

0800 030 5182

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