By Family Law Solicitor, Bianca Jones
There are a number of Court Orders that can be applied for to prevent / permit a child to travel abroad or to assist with their safe return to the UK.
If a parent wishes to take their child abroad, all those with Parental Responsibility for the child must consent to this. If there is a risk that a child may be taken out of the country without the permission of both parents, or if they have already been taken out of the country, then there are Court Orders that can be put in place to protect the child.
On the contrary, if a parent wishes to take their child abroad for a legitimate reason and the other parent is refusing to allow them, they can apply for a Court Order to obtain this permission. We explain how each of these Court Orders work.
Consent to Take a Child Abroad
If more than one parent has Parental Responsibility for a child and one parent is looking to take the child out of the jurisdiction on holiday then the consent of the other parent is required. It is advisable that parents look to obtain written consent from the staying party in case they face any issues when trying to leave or enter another country. The written consent should contain the staying parent's contact details so that they can be contacted if there are any issues at the border.
It would also be good practice for the parent who is taking the child away to provide details to the staying party such as dates the child will be away, flight times and accommodation details.
If consent can't be obtained from the other parent then this could lead to complications and could result in the parent who is taking the child away being accused of child abduction.
Any other family members, such as grandparents, will also need to obtain consent from all parents that have Parental Responsibility for the child before they will be able to take them overseas.
Specific Issue Order
If a parent is facing difficulties in obtaining consent from another parent with Parental Responsibility then an application should be made to the Court for a 'Specific Issue Order.' A Specific Issue Order will allow the Court to determine questions such as whether the child can be taken abroad or who should have possession of the child's travel documents.
If a Child Arrangements Order is already in place, then the person (or people) that the Order relates to can take the child abroad without the other parent's consent for a maximum of 28 days. However, if they want to take the child away for longer and the other parent is not providing consent then an application for a Specific Issue Order should be made to Court.
With regards to obtaining a passport for the child, the Passport Office will require consent of both parents with Parental Responsibility before issuing a passport. Again if a parent is facing difficulties in obtaining a passport for the child, then a Specific Issue Order application can be made to the Court.
The welfare of the child will be paramount when the Court is considering the application and they will want to ensure that necessary safeguards are in place to ensure the child will be returned to the UK safely.
Prohibited Steps Order
If there are concerns that a parent may take the child from the jurisdiction without the other parent's consent and/or that they may have has no intention of returning the child to the UK then an application can be made to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order. A Prohibited Steps Order can prevent a parent from removing the child from the country.
As with a Specific Issue Order, the welfare of the child will be of paramount importance to the Court when considering the application.
If a parent has already taken the child out of the country and the staying parent is concerned that the other parent has no intention of returning to the UK then the parent may also be able to rely upon an international treaty called the Hague Convention, which was developed as a method to return children that have been internationally abducted. If the parent has taken the child to country that it is a member of the Hague Convention then the parent can rely upon the procedure set out within the Convention to seek for the child to be returned safely.
If a parent wants to rely upon the Hague Convention for the safe return of their child, an application would need to be made to the High Court for a Return Order.
The parent applying for the Return Order must show that the child was habitually a resident in the UK, that the removal of the child constituted a breach of custody rights and that the parent was actually exercising the rights of contact at the time of the removal or retention.
Help with Children Law Matters
Our Family Law Solicitors can provide legal advice and support on any children law matters. We can also assist with Court Orders, including applying for a Specific Issue Order, Prohibited Steps Order or Return Order.
For free initial legal advice call our Family Law Solicitors on 03306069626 or contact us online and we will call you.