You do so via negotiation and bridge-building, whenever possible.
Holidays can be a flashpoint when a couple divorce or separate, especially if they have not done so on good terms. Typically, one parent is keen to take a holiday abroad with the children and the other is reluctant, or even outright refuses to give their permission, something they are legally able to do.
They may object to the presence of the holidaying parents’ new partner, for example, or feel the money would be better spent in other ways.
Taking a child abroad without the permission of other individuals holding ‘parental responsibility’ (the legal status of parenthood) is child abduction under the law.
How do I negotiate with my ex?
If you are keen to take your child on holiday but your ex is reluctant, try your best to discuss the situation with them and address their concerns as best you can. Emphasising the benefits to the children of a fun holiday and time with their other parent may be a good tactic. Put the children first, rather than yourself.
Calm co-parenting is always in the best interests of children and this requires open lines of communication and a willingness on both sides to compromise and respect the other parent’s perspective. The child’s welfare will be the foremost consideration of the family courts and it should be the foremost consideration of every parent too.
If you are really struggling, mediation may be helpful. This is a form of guided negotiation in which the participants attempt to reach out-of-court agreements on contentious issues. The sessions are guided by mediators trained to take an impartial stance and steer the former couple towards mutually acceptable compromises.
The next step, if mediation fails, is to seek advice from an expert family solicitor to discuss the possibility of legal action. Family courts have the legal power to make a ‘specific issue order’ allowing the holiday to take place, if a judge believes this will be in the child’s best interests.
When applying for a specific issues order, you will need to provide full details of the planned holiday – for example, where you will be staying, your contact details during the holiday and a full breakdown of the flights you plan to take. It can also be a good idea to propose ways to make up for any lost time with the other parent.
Sometimes legal action is the right choice, but to avoid the inevitable acrimony, it should always be the option of last resort in any family dispute.
Do I always need the permission of the other parent?
Not always. There are two key exceptions.
A child arrangements order is an enforceable legal order setting down the living arrangements for a child or children following divorce or separation – for example, which parent they will live with on a day-to-day basis, and how often they will see the other parent. If a child arrangements order has been made in favour of the parent planning the holiday, they will not need to ask for permission, as long as the order does not state otherwise and the holiday will not exceed one month. However, even in those circumstances it is generally still sensible to give the other parent notice and send them details of the holiday.
In addition, there is no need to seek the permission of biological parents who do not hold parental responsibility. This is an uncommon situation but it does occur occasionally. Unmarried fathers who are not named on the birth certificate of the child fall into this category.
In some cases, holidays abroad may not be a possibility at all. The courts may have previously issued a ‘prohibited steps’ order forbidding parents from taking their children abroad for holidays or visits, out of concern they may abduct them.
Holidays in the UK are a simpler proposition. Parents do not normally need the specific permission of the other parent for these, although clear communication remains sensible, as does making up any lost ‘contact’ time with the other parent. In some cases, a family court order may have placed restrictions on UK holidays too, but those will be specific to the circumstances.