Whats in a Name  (Luxe Magazine)

International Family Law

Read what our Managing Director, Joanne Major of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, says in this month’s Luxe Magazine:

It can often be difficult to separate a surname from a sense of identity and the feeling of being part of a family unit. Indeed many women have to tackle this issue when they get married. The decision being should she keep her surname or take that of her husband?

This issue also affects women who are separated from or divorcing their spouse. Some feel strongly they wish to return to their maiden name, whereas others – particularly those who have been married for many years or have children – choose to keep their married surname as it is part of their family identity. In cohabitating families who aren’t married this can cause all sorts of headaches especially where family members may have different surnames.

By example, take family holidays abroad; hitherto children could travel with their parents without question. But in recent years if you’re travelling to another country with a child and you are a separated parent travelling solo or if you and the child have different surnames, additional documentation in the form of permission letters is now needed to establish your relationship by Border Control.

The Home Office has provided useful guidance in this new age of scrutiny and suggests appropriate evidence may include copy birth or adoption certificates showing the relationship with the child; a copy of your Decree Absolute on divorce or a copy of your marriage certificate if you are a parent with a different surname to your child; or the provision of a letter of consent from one or both the child’s parents, confirming your consent to the trip.

And what of those extended family members or family friends travelling with children who aren’t the parent of that child? A letter of consent from the child’s parents giving permission for the child to travel abroad with the person accompanying them should assist. This is often referred to as a Child Travel Consent form or a travel permission letter and it is a document that is used to allow a minor to child to travel. Again the Home Office have devised a straightforward online template letter to assist. If the document is notarised, by a Notary or Solicitor, the authenticity of the document is guaranteed and should help ease border control if the minor is travelling internationally. But be warned – taking a letter of consent won’t necessarily guarantee that your child will be allowed to travel abroad as each country has its own requirements for children travelling without parents so best advice is to first check the specific requirements of the country you’re travelling to.

And finally let’s not forget the teenagers travelling solo across Europe this summer on vacation schemes. If they can’t produce proper consent letters they may be refused entry. This nearly happened to my own teenage son as he returned home solo from a family trip to Nice. The airline hadn’t flagged it as an issue when the single flight was booked nor had I realised he would face such scrutiny as he tried to re-gain access into his hometown destination. Who knew?