The coronavirus pandemic has certainly put a stop to many holiday plans in 2020 and 2021, but with the governments’ announcement that the restrictions will end by 21st June 2021, you may be hovering over that ‘purchase tickets’ button for your much-needed holiday.
We have previously provided guidance on a parent taking their children abroad on holiday if they are separated from the other parent – but how does this apply to ‘staycations’, holidays within England and Wales?
As in our previous article, the first question to consider is ‘Who has parental responsibility for the child?’ A biological mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A biological father can have automatic parental responsibility in one of two ways:
- By being married to the child’s mother at the time that the child was born
- By being named on the birth certificate (only automatic after 1st December 2003)
If neither of the above two apply, it is worth noting that a parental responsibility agreement can also be made, which can grant a father parental responsibility if he does not have so already, providing that the child’s mother agrees with the father having parental responsibility.
If you seek to take your child outside of England and Wales, then you need the written consent of everyone who shares parental responsibility for that child unless you have a child arrangements order, that your child lives with you in which case you can take the child out of the country for up to 28 days. It is good practice to inform the other parent and if it impacts on the arrangements when the child spends time with the other parent you should seek their agreement.
If you have parental responsibility for a child and wish to take them on holiday WITHIN England and Wales, and if there is no court order in place, you do not need the other parent’s permission to take the child on holiday as long as you are still within the jurisdiction of the law of England and Wales, but it would be courteous to let the other parent know of your plans.
If there is a court order in place, then permission may need to be sought. You may be able to take the child on holiday for up to 28 days without needing express permission, however this would depend on the individual circumstances. There are a number of factors to be considered here, such as the type of order, how it impacts on the other parent’s contact, whether an existing order would be breached by the holiday, and so on, therefore it is always best to speak to a specialist before booking those tickets.
So what should you do?
If you are a parent who wishes to take their child on holiday WITHIN England and Wales:
It is always best to try to talk to the other parent unless you are prevented from doing so. By talking to the other parent, this avoids any worries or concerns down the line if the child does not turn up for contact or if the child or parent is unreachable. If you are unable to talk to the other parent, consider using a third party friend or family member, or even a professional mediator.
If the other parent does not agree, then as mentioned above, as long as you are within the jurisdiction of England and Wales and as long as you have parental responsibility for the child, you are able to take the child on your staycation without their express consent.
If you are a parent whose contact will be affected by your child being on holiday with the other parent:
Again, try talking to the other parent as a first resort. It may be possible that the contact can be made up at another time, or that any concerns that you have about the child’s safety could be addressed. It may also be possible to agree virtual contact (such as telephone or video calls) whilst your child is away. If talking to the parent directly is not possible, consider a friend or relative, or a professional mediator.
If this is not possible, or if this fails, you can speak to a solicitor to assist.
It is also important to note that in these situations, it is not in a child’s interests to pass messages between you and the other parent and to be drawn into adult issues.
How Stephensons can help:
If you are a parent who has concerns relating to what is set out in this post, it is important that you act without delay, especially given the lifting of restrictions within the UK as we emerge out of lockdown in June 2021.
At Stephensons, we can help in a variety of ways:
We can contact the other parent to attempt to reach an agreement
We can advise on the merits of issuing an application to court to seek permission to take a child on holiday.
We can issue an application to court to prevent a parent from taking a certain action.
It must always be remembered that if an application to court is made, the court will consider the welfare checklist, which includes the wishes and feelings of the child, and their physical, emotional and educational needs, amongst other concerns.
If you do require legal advice, you should contact solicitors sooner rather than later so that options can be explored with you, with the benefit of advice.
By Bethany Corday and Megan Ryan-Loughran, family law team