22 August 2023

Travelling abroad with children – what are the rules?

Travelling abroad with children – what are the rules?

When it comes to taking a child out of the UK, there are many questions from parents about the legal considerations, most commonly where the parents and children have different surnames. The rights and responsibilities of parents in England and Wales are mainly found within the Children Act 1989 and this covers decisions concerning how the child is brought up.

Below, we will explore the legal implications of taking a child abroad and present guidance on how to best navigate this where the child has a different surname.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility encompasses all the rights, obligations, responsibilities, powers and authority that the parent has with regard to their child and property. These responsibilities and powers include key decision-making in relation to education, upbringing, health and religious beliefs.

What permission do I need to take a child abroad?

The law is transparent when considering foreign travel with a child. If one parent wishes to take the child abroad, permission must be sought and obtained from each person with parental responsibility for that child. Alternatively, the parent can request this permission from the Court. This is a requirement if the child’s surname is the same, or different as the parent seeking permission.

What happens if I do not get permission? 

If the trip abroad takes place and the adult has failed to obtain permission, there can be serious ramifications including the travel being considered as child abduction which is a serious criminal offence. To avoid this, the above permissions must be sought and legal requirements adhered to.

Are there exceptions to the Permission Requirement?

There are very few circumstances where this requirement can be circumvented, with the main one being where one parent has a Child Arrangements Order which specifically covers foreign travel. This would usually be a clause that confirms the child can travel abroad with the parent that they live with, for a period of up to 28 days without seeking permission. It is imperative that the Child Arrangements Order is consulted before relying on this exemption.

What if the child and parent have different surnames? 

A situation that is becoming increasingly more common is where a child may have a different surname from the parent they are travelling with. To avoid any issues surrounding the child’s identity, it is best to carry evidence which clarifies the relationship and the difference in surname. Such evidence can include a birth certificate, marriage/divorce certificate or a letter from the other parent which confirms the agreement to the child travelling without them.

What key things must I remember when travelling abroad with a child?

  • Permission must be sought from each person with parental responsibility.
  • Court Orders must be adhered to.
  • Carry documentary evidence that can attest to the relationship with the child, and consent to travel.

Following these legal requirements and guidelines means that the best interests of the children are met, and the parents can have peace of mind that they have done everything by the book to ensure a smooth trip.

For more information and advice, contact our child service solicitors in Surrey today. 

our lawyers deliver an excellent quality service, independently recognised by The Law Society and our many returning clients.

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