Taking your child/children on holidays – what you need to know
Holidays away are a great way for parents and children to enjoy some quality time, to relax, have fun and get away from it all. All of these benefits are still very valid when you are a separated parent, but planning a holiday will take a little more planning than usual to make sure that it will be the positive experience you are hoping for
There are some restrictions in some instances about where you can take your child on holiday, so make sure you have made yourself aware of these in advance of booking anything.
Can I take my child abroad?
To take your child/ren abroad, you need permission from everyone with parental responsibility for that child, to do so. Even if you have parental responsibility, you need to get it from their other parent/s, otherwise it is classed as child abduction.
This means you need a letter from them, stating you have permission. It is helpful if the letter gives their contact details and specifies the trip arrangements, and be prepared that you may get asked for the letter at boarder control. It can also be a good idea to make sure you are also carrying evidence of your relationship to the child, especially if you have a different surname to your child.
If you cannot get permission from the other/s with parental responsibility, you will need to get permission from court, which will look at whether the holiday is in the child’s best interests or not.
If there is no one else with parental responsibility for your children, then you do not require anyone’s permission to take them children on holiday abroad.
Due to the potential extra steps involved, make sure you give time to sorting these issues out before booking your holiday to avoid any disappointment for you or your child/ren.
Can I take my child on a UK holiday?
If you are the main carer for your children on a day to day basis, then you do not need any permission to take them on holiday within the UK, but you will need to make them available for any court ordered contact.
What about school residential trips?
Parental responsibility means that anyone who holds it has to be consulted about your child’s life decisions, which include things like school trips. Therefore, you are required to obtain consent even if your children are going away without you, for example, on a residential school trip.
How can I make my ex more positive about the idea of me taking my child/ren on holiday?
It is helpful, as difficult as it might be, to look at things from your ex’s point of view. What might be the reasons for them being anxious about you taking the children on holiday and how could you provide reassurance to cover these queries?
Remember to try and give them as much notice as possible, and ask for permission rather than ‘tell’ them that you are doing it. For all you know, there might be some big event already scheduled which clashes with your plans, so discussion of both plans might be needed. At the end of the day, you are aiming to open up a dialogue to help achieve what you want to do.
If your ex expresses concern, rather than dismiss them, ask how you could help overcome them.
Make time to explain where you want to go and what you want to do, so they don’t feel completely in the dark. They may just feel anxious about their child/ren being away from them, far away, for a long period of time – especially if it is the first time. Information about your plans may help ease some of the unknowns and uncertainties and bring them more on board with your plans. Be prepared that the first time you take your child away; you may need to be open to compromise to help overcome the anxieties your ex has about it. It might feel that they are trying to roadblock your plans, but if they are genuinely nervous about it, an uncompromising and heavy handed approach is not likely to help overcome these very real parenting instincts.
And talk to your ex about the holiday BEFORE your child/ren. It is not likely to get them on side with this, or any future holidays, if your ex feels like the children are being manipulated for your own ends.
If necessary, you could even try family mediation to reach agreement, as having a neutral presence to help you both discuss the situation can be very helpful.
The other thing to bear in mind, is that this will hopefully be the first of many holidays you will be able to take with your children, so even if you do need to compromise a little, remember if it goes well, there will be plenty more opportunities to come and hopefully as the trust builds, with a little more freedom each time.
A holiday is an exciting event, but are there some fine details which it is also helpful to have been through with everyone to make sure it achieves everything you are hoping for, for instance:
- How do your children feel about it? Does it clash with anything they have planned which could cause any issue or mixed feelings?
- Can you get your children involved in planning the holiday? Interests can change quickly, and if you are not the resident parent, these are not always immediately apparent. Make sure that it will be a trip you will all enjoy! The act of planning it with you is also a great opportunity to keep building your relationship and bond with them, and show them that you are interested in what they think.
- Be prepared that your children may be excited about the trip, and have spent days away from their other parent with you before, but being somewhere far away for a long time can still cause some natural homesickness. Plan for how they can talk to their other parent/s when they want to, and whether there is anything they want to take with them on holiday to help – like a special cuddly toy, etc.