See what our Associate, Sam Carter of Major Family Law, niche family law specialists, says in this month’s Luxe Magazine:

Some of our most cherished childhood memories are of going on holiday. A time to explore, relax and spend quality time with family. If you are planning a holiday with your children there are a number of legal matters you need to be aware of.

First of all, children cannot generally be taken out of school during term-time. Schools used to have the discretion to allow up to 10 days term-time holiday each year in “special circumstances”. However, the rules were tightened in September 2013 which means head teachers can only now give permission for term-time absences in “exceptional circumstances”. The Supreme Court was asked to consider the new regulations in 2017, and the court emphatically confirmed the law that children must not be taken out of school unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. If you take your child out of school in term-time without the head teacher’s permission then you face a fine of £60 per child (the Local Education Authority can levy this against each parent – so you could face a possible fine of £120). Last year the number of fines issued to parents in England for unauthorised holiday absences increased by 93%.

If you are planning on taking your child outside of England and Wales you must obtain the consent of all those with ‘parental responsibility’. For most children those with ‘parental responsibility’ are their parents; however, others may also have ‘parental responsibility’ for a child if the parents have agreed to grant it to someone else or if the court has previously made orders in respect of that child. This means you may also need the consent of step-parents, uncles/aunts or grandparents. If you take your child outside of England and Wales without the consent of all those with ‘parental responsibility’ then you will be committing a criminal offence.

If you are separated from your child’s mother/father then my advice is to give as much notice as possible to the other parent of any proposed holiday. It is reasonable to provide details of the dates you will be travelling, information as to how you will be travelling (including flight/ferry details), an address for where you will be staying as well as an emergency contact number when you are away. If permission is given then it is sensible to record this in writing. You may be questioned at the airport as to whether the other parent has given consent for you to take your child outside the jurisdiction. To avoid delay or pre-holiday stress, I suggest you take evidence of the other parent’s consent with you to the airport. A solicitor can prepare a document evidencing this consent. Even if you are not separated you may still encounter difficulties at the airport if your child has a different surname to you, or if you are travelling without the child’s parents (for example, you are a grandparent).

If the other parent will not consent to you taking your child abroad then you would need to apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order. You would be asking a Judge to give you permission to take your child outside the jurisdiction (if a Judge gives you permission to go you will not be committing a criminal offence by taking your child outside the jurisdiction). An application to court for a Specific Issue Order can be made on an urgent, emergency basis, however, it is much better to plan ahead and not leave it until the last minute. The last thing you want before going on holiday is a trip to court.

If you are planning on taking your child on holiday then it is important you seek legal advice at an early stage. I am a children law specialist at Major Family Law and would be happy to provide you with some initial advice in a no obligation free consultation. Contact me on 01661 824582 or