Do you have authority to take your child on holiday?

19th May 2014

The recent government decision to refuse parents permission to take their children out of school to go on holiday has caused a furore amongst parents, who will no longer be able to take advantage of cheaper term-time holiday deals. However, for unmarried or divorced parents, taking your child on holiday sometimes requires careful negotiation with the other parent; especially if you do not have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility consists of “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. Having parental responsibility means that you can make decisions about your child’s welfare and property. This includes, but is not limited to, decisions about where they live, their education, religious upbringing, medical treatment and applying for your child’s passport.

A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A father usually has parental responsibility if they are married or if he is named on the birth certificate (if the child was born after December 2003). If a father does not automatically have parental responsibility, it can be obtained by signing an agreement with the mother or applying to the court.

If both parents have parental responsibility and there are no residence orders, or any other restrictions in place, then if you wish to take your child on holiday you should obtain the written consent of the other parent. If consent is refused, then you could apply to court for permission.

In most cases the court is likely to give permission for a child to go abroad on holiday provided the other parent is given details of where the child will be staying, including details of flights and contact telephone numbers.

The situation is different if one parent has a residence order in force. If the parent with the residence order wishes to take a child abroad then they can do so for up to one month without the written consent of the other parent. However, it is good to endeavour to agree the arrangements in advance.

According to Susan Davies, family lawyer at Ansons Solicitors in Lichfield, it is advisable to consult and reach agreement with the other parent first. This can avoid misunderstandings and allegations of abduction. A neutral third party, such as a mediator or collaborative lawyer can often be very useful in helping parents to come to an agreement over arrangements for children.

For further information about parental responsibility please contact Susan Davies in the family law team, on 01543 267 190 or email Ansons Solicitors has offices in Cannock and Lichfield, Staffordshire.