With the rising number of unmarried and separated parents, there are some issues to be considered before taking a child abroad. Two of the main issues are ensuring that those with parental responsibility of the child have provided permission for the child to travel, and making sure that a parent with a different surname to their child can be proven to be the child’s parent.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is a bundle of rights which a parent has in respect of their child. It means that they can make decisions for the child, such as where they go to school, if they should have medical treatment, and whether they go on holiday. Parental responsibility is obtained automatically by a mother of a child, but only by a father in certain circumstances. These include if he is married to the mother, or if he is noted as the father on the child’s birth certificate. In relation to same-sex couples, the law is slightly different, so consider contacting us for further advice in this situation. Parental responsibility is not measurable, and one parent does not have greater rights over a child just because, for example, the child lives with them. More than one person can have parental responsibility, including grandparents.

Taking a child on holiday

In order to take a child out of the jurisdiction, all those with parental responsibility must have provided their consent. For separated parents, this does sometimes mean obtaining the permission from your ex-partner to take your child abroad. This also applies to grandparents, friends of parents who may be taking a child on holiday, or even in the circumstances where a child is travelling alone or studying abroad.

Proof of this consent can be in the form of a Statutory Declaration signed by those with parental responsibility, providing permission for their child to be taken out of the jurisdiction. A statutory declaration should be sworn evidence of the parent’s permission and include reference to the specific period of time in which the holiday is being taken and the destination of the trip.

An adult with parental responsibility can withhold their consent. If you cannot get permission from the other parent, it is possible to make a court application for permission to take a child on holiday for a specified period. One of the factors a court would consider would be whether the child could be quickly and safely returned to the jurisdiction in the event that their absence became unlawful.

It is advisable to ensure that each parent has the others’ emergency contact details, in the event that the child needs urgent medical assistance or if there are delays when flying home. Providing the parent who has consented with a copy of the child’s passport and the travel insurance certificate is also sensible.

Implications for those travelling with children with a different surname to theirs

For unmarried or divorced parents, grandparents and friends, it is worth considering the impactions of not sharing a surname with the child they are travelling with. Although a parent does not have to share a surname with their child to have parental responsibility, problems can arise when entering some countries with children who have a different surname on their passports than their adults they are travelling with. Travelling could pose a problem for some airlines and immigration authorities.

In these circumstances, if you are the child’s parent, it is worth taking your child’s birth certificate with you when you travel out of the jurisdiction. A change of name deed could be an alternative if for example, you are a mother who has divorced the father of the child and reverted back to your maiden name, or a marriage certificate if you have remarried but your previous surname was the same as your child’s.