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Rita Gupta, LGFL Director says:

“With the summer holidays approaching, and after our very wet 2024 spring, you may want to take the children abroad for a sunny summer holiday.

As separated parents, you may have very different views on travel and the associated risks. As co-parents, you need to consider that, and make sensible decisions.”

 

School summer holidays 2024

School’s out for summer in just a few weeks! The 2024 school summer holiday dates are as follows:

  • Hampshire schools: Weds 24 July to Sun 1 September 2024
  • Surrey schools: Tues 23 July to Sun 1 September 2024
  • Berkshire schools: Weds 24 July to Tues 3 September 2024
  • Private schools: holidays usually start approx.. 1 week early and return 1 week later. Check with your child’s school.

 

Taking kids out of school early for summer holidays

You cannot just take children out of school for a holiday because it's cheaper or more convenient. Your child is only permitted to miss school if they are too ill to attend, or you have advance permission from the school.

As the gov website says:

“You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. You can only do this if:

  • you make an application to the head teacher in advance (as a parent the child normally lives with)
  • there are exceptional circumstances

It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.

You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission.”

 

Summer holiday permissions

As a divorced or separated parent, before booking your summer holiday you need to consider the impact on your children and your co-parenting relationship.

In the interests of co-parenting, parents should prioritise their children’s welfare by openly discussing and respect people’s wishes about the locations and duration of travel.

Apart from the legal requirements (see below), there are emotional considerations including the co-parent’s ability to afford a similar holiday, and the potential jealousy this can create.

Equally, taking children away on holiday for longer periods of time may deny the non-holidaying parent access to see the children during the summer months, when there is more to do and enjoy outside together in the UK.

Try not to become embroiled in tit for tat responses. Look at the bigger picture of allowing a child to enjoy a holiday abroad with the reassurance that the other parent is happy for them to be enjoying a holiday away. It also demonstrates that you both are taking a child centred approach.

 

Getting the co-parent’s permission

If you plan to take your children abroad, and have shared parental responsibility with your ex-partner, you must seek their permission to take your children out of the country, even for just a short break. Taking children abroad without permission is child abduction in the eyes of the law.

If you have a Child Arrangement Order stating the children live with you, you are able to remove them from the country without permission for less than one month. After that time, you will need permission.

In shared care cases, there has to be full agreement between you. So, in the interests of co-parenting, we would always suggest you have detailed discussions. This is particularly important as, at time of writing, there are planned summer strike action by the border agencies which could delay or affect your travel plans.

 

Get it in writing

Your permission/consent should be set down in writing, as proof that everyone understands precisely what has and has not been agreed to. This is called a child arrangement letter, and should include:

  • Details of the holiday destination including street address
  • Contact details for all accommodation/s
  • A full itinerary of travel arrangements including flight numbers and times, departure and arrival airports, train times, etc.
  • Details of any planned holiday events that might require co-parental permission, such as scuba diving.

 

Changes to travel plans

If your ex has already given permission in writing for a holiday abroad, and your travel plans change in terms of dates, destination or duration, you’ll need to get their permission for the new changes.

So it is prudent to include some “wriggle room” in the written permission allowing for changes in departure and return dates due to cancellations. You might also wish to include permission for any rebooked holiday during the summer period.

 

UK holiday permissions

If you are going to spend the holidays in the UK, not abroad, you’ll need to inform your ex about these changes too. However, you don't need permission from your ex-partner to take your children on holiday in the UK.

 

Holiday timescales: passports

Many travellers have recently been caught out by the issue of passport expiry dates. Many countries consider the expiry date of a passport to be 10 years from the date of issue. This can be different from the expiry date on the passport if you applied or a renewal with time left on the passport. In the UK, this extra time might have been added to your passport expiry date, effectively making the passport appear valid for longer than 10 years.

So check that all the family passports meet these EU rules:

1) The passport issue date is less than 10 years before the day of your arrival in the EU

AND

2) The passport expiry date is at least three months after the intended day of your departure from EU

In addition, countries that require a visa to enter will require at least six months validity on your passport. So it is important to check long before your planned travel dates that all your passports will be valid for the required amount of time.

Make sure you also leave sufficient time to apply for a new passport for either yourself or a child. At time of writing, the gov Passport Office website says:

“You’ll usually get your passport within 3 weeks. It may take longer than 3 weeks if we need more information, or we need to interview you.”

The application process only starts from the moment the Passport Office receive your documents, so allow extra time for the post to arrive at their end. Once your documents are received, you can track the progress of your application online.

 

Need to make changes to an existing holiday agreement?

If you have a child arrangement letter already in place, and you need to amend it, contact us - there is still time.

- Call us

- Email us

 

Five benefits of a formal holiday child arrangement letter

1. A child arrangement letter cuts down the conversations required between you and your ex.

2. It avoids lengthy email exchanges or telephone calls where it’s all too easy to misunderstand what has been arranged and for when.

3. It is impartial and comes via a third party (us).

4. All your ex needs to do is reply in writing agreeing to the arrangements, and you’re ready to go.

5. Child arrangement agreements can be shown to border staff if required.

 

Travelling abroad? Take your letter (and other paperwork) with you

If you are travelling with children that do not share your surname, a child arrangement agreement is very useful to have if border staff wish to clarify their relationship to you.

As a result of Brexit, passport control procedures now vary across the EU and you may find yourself under closer scrutiny (and in a longer queue) than before.

Also remember that you should have health insurance for yourself and the children. if you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), according to the NHS website, “You can continue to use it until it expires”.

The EHIC has now been replaced by the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which you can apply for online. A UK GHIC is free and is valid for five years. You can apply for one here.

 

Court Orders for visits abroad

Your ex may decide not to give permission for you to take children abroad, just as you can refuse permission for them to do the same. In such a case, either parent can apply for a Specific Issue Order. This is a court order that determines a specific issue concerning Parental Responsibility.

The court will determine if the holiday or journey abroad is in the child’s best interests. A court is unlikely to rule against a visit to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention. However, it may rule against visits to other countries are not thought to be safe.

Equally, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order if there is a risk that your ex-spouse may not return the children back to the UK.

The focus of the court and all professionals involved will always be the welfare of the child/children. The view on precisely what that welfare consists of can be quite different between separated parents, and so a compromise will have to be reached. You may want to consider mediation to resolve the issue between you and reach that required compromise.

 

Child arrangement agreements by phone or Zoom

At LGFL, we aim to make it as easy as possible to access the legal advice and services you need, and so offer our full family law service both in person and remotely. The great advantage of remote services is that you don't need to travel to our offices, and virtual mediation means you don't need to meet your ex-partner in person to resolve differences if required.

Do feel free to phone us to discuss your requirements, or book your initial 1-hour reduced fee advice session. (For qualifying clients, T&Cs apply.)