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The summer holidays are upon us but are your plans in order?

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As the school holidays approach, many people are busy making last minute plans to get some much needed sun. However, whilst you may be a parent or a person with care of a child, do you have the legal right to take them away?

Many people, particularly parents, assume that they can lawfully take their child away on holiday. This is true if the holiday is to take place in the UK, but if you intended to take a child abroad, the position is not so straight forward. A child cannot be lawfully removed from the UK unless the individual intending to remove the child has secured the consent of all of those with parental responsibility for the child, or have previously obtained an Order from the Court. Parental Responsibility is defined in section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as:-  

“All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.”

A biological mother will automatically have parental responsibility, unless this has been extinguished. A biological father will automatically acquire parental responsibility if he is married to the biological mother at birth, or he subsequently marries the mother. A biological father may also acquire parental responsibility in a number of other ways, as can third parties who are not the child’s biological parents.

It is important to know where you stand because if you remove a child from the UK, without the permission of those with parental responsibility, then you are at risk of committing a criminal offence under the Children Act 1984.

This issue commonly arises between separated parents, where one parent refuses to consent to any planned/proposed trip by the other parent. In such cases, there are a number of options available to the parent proposing the holiday to include making an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order and/or a Specific Issue Order. If a Child Arrangements Order is made, which provides for a child to live with a parent, that parent does not need to secure the permission of the other parent/person with care, so long as any holiday is for no longer than one month.

For many, this may not be an issue. However, for some, you may be wise to seek advice on parental responsibility and your ability to remove your child from the UK so that you know where you stand legally.