FAQ - Separated families and holidays
With borders potentially opening soon for summer holidays, Head of Family Louise Gidley discusses separated families and holidays abroad.
1) As a separated parent, how can I ensure taking my children abroad complies with any custody arrangement I have?
If you have parental responsibility, and are named in the Child Arrangements Order that the child or children live with you, you can take a child or children out of the country for no more than one month in a year without written consent of those who hold parental responsibility. You should always advise anyone who has parental responsibility of your decision and it is common practice to provide details of any holiday to include flight details and where you are staying. Any holiday should not impact on the arrangements within the Child Arrangements Order – if it does you will need the agreement of the other parent. Your Child Arrangements Order, if one was made, will have details of any other restrictions that may apply.
If you are not named in the Child Arrangement Order as the child or children living with you and you do not obtain permission from the persons that hold parental responsibility, and you remove the child from the country, that would be a wrongful removal and would be classified as abduction. There are a number of steps that could be taken should this happen and the ramifications can be serious.
2) What happens if the other parent refuses to let this happen, despite taking my children abroad themselves?
Mediation can be a useful tool to come to an agreement amicably. If that doesn’t work, or is inappropriate due to domestic abuse, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order using Form C100, and the court will be able to rule on what is the appropriate course of action. This can be quite an expensive and lengthy process so you should consider your options carefully before choosing to issue proceedings. A solicitor can advise you on the best way to approach this, and at what point it would become necessary to issue proceedings.
The parent who does not wish for the holiday to occur may also apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent you removing the child from the jurisdiction.
If relations are difficult between you and the other parent and you are concerned consent will not be given to go abroad you need to ensure you that you do not commit to a booking and that you leave enough time to resolve the matter if Court proceedings are necessary as it is not a quick process.
3) What happens if the other parent agrees but then changes their mind after I have paid a deposit?
It is best practice to agree in writing any plans for holidays before booking, for example stating that you wish to take the child on holiday at some point but are not sure on dates yet. If you do not, you could well lose out on those funds. If an agreement as to the holiday is made, it may be easier for you to re-claim costs should the other parent revoke consent. If a person with parental responsibility revokes consent you would need to make an application if you wished to continue with the holiday.
4) Are there any circumstances when the other parent would be liable for costs if they stop the children coming on the agreed holiday?
If there is not a Child Arrangements Order in place then it will be very difficult to seek the costs against the other parent as there is no provision for the child or children to be made available for the holiday.
However, if there is a Child Arrangements Order in place there is provision for the reimbursement of costs as part of the enforcement of a Child Arrangements Order. Generally speaking, if the holiday is being taken as part of the general course of contact for example, a holiday booked for an agreed week of contact in the summer holidays, and the parent does not make the child available, you may be able to claim for reimbursement. This may also apply should the parent whom the children live with not provide passports for a foreign holiday, again, this is best agreed as far in advance as possible, and the travelling parent receiving the passports as early as practicable. It is important to consider all of this when drafting the Order at Court too so that future issues can hopefully be avoided.
5) How can using a solicitor help ensure compliance of custody agreements?
A solicitor can help in many ways to try and reach an agreement about the arrangements for children. This could include preparing an agreement which although not legally binding does set out what the parties intend to try and prevent confusion and give clarity to the arrangements in place.
If parties cannot reach an agreement then a solicitor can assist with issuing Court proceedings and guide you through the process as well as ensure you are represented throughout.
It is important that any agreements or Orders that as much detail as possible included in any agreement or order (e.g. school holidays, Christmas, birthdays, mother’s day, and father’s day). A solicitor can also ensure that the agreement or Order is worded clearly to reduce any doubt between you and your co-parent about the arrangements for the child or children.
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