Lucinda Connell, specialist family law solicitor with Major Family Law, the best Divorce and family law specialists, Newcastle comments:

It’s that special time of year for parents – booking your holiday to spend some quality time with the kids. Passport?  Check.  Suncream? Check.  Legal permission for the children to leave the country?  You may have thought about this but many parents are shocked to discover that they may need the consent of their former partner or spouse to take their children on a perfectly reasonable family holiday abroad.

The legal position is little known but quite clear – if both parents of the children hold parental responsibility (for the avoidance of any doubt parental responsibility is held by all mothers and married fathers and also fathers named on the birth certificate of a child) then BOTH parents must consent to the child(ren) being taken abroad. This essentially means anywhere outside England and Wales and is irrespective of how long the trip is proposed to last.  A weekend to be spent for example in Scotland therefore is deemed to be a holiday abroad requiring the consent of both parents!

If you wish to book a holiday for your children, the best possible advice is to obtain the consent from the other parent in advance and ideally before any arrangements are booked. When you ask for consent, the other parent is perfectly entitled to expect you to provide details of the holiday to include exact dates, flight numbers or other travel plans, accommodation details and possibly also your proposals for telephone contact while you are away – subject to the length of the break.

It is always preferable and advisable to obtain written consent from the other parent and to take this on holiday with you so that, in the event the need arises, the letter can be shown to any relevant authorities.

If you request consent of the other parent and this is refused, an application to the Court for permission to take your child on holiday, by way of a Specific Issue Order, can be made. The Court will decide whether or not the potential holiday would be in the best interests of the child. Although there can be no guarantees, it is almost always the case that the Court will grant permission for the holiday or trip provided of course the child will be safe and well looked after whilst there.  The Court is well aware of the significant benefits family holidays and trips have for children.

Whilst court applications should ideally be avoided where possible, they can be dealt with in a very short period of time if the proposed holiday is to take place in the very near future. The build up to the holiday should be a time of happy anticipation for all and it is therefore preferable to ensure all necessary legalities are addressed in good time.

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not consent from the other parent is required for your proposed trip, please contact one of the specialist family lawyers at Major Family Law on (+44) 01661 824582 who will be happy to advise further.