Holidays and the separated family
When a family separates, the timing and nature of family holidays can become an issue.
There can be particularly difficulty where one parent wishes to take children abroad against the wishes of the other. It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the country without the permission of everyone who has “parental responsibility” for that child, typically the other parent.
Someone who has a “lives with” child arrangements order in their favour can take the relevant child abroad for up to one month without needing permission unless there is a court order to the contrary.
Typically, the court will have expected you to have undergone a mediation information and assessment meeting before you make an application to the court.
Disputes about holidays can form part of more general proceedings about with whom a child should live with or who they should spend time with and when. It is important that, should there be a dispute over the single issue of a holiday, then it may take a good deal of time to get to a final hearing which may overtake the holiday period in dispute. Because there is a huge workload creating great demand on court centres you should apply to the court once a dispute has been identified, several months in advance. It is possible to make an application on an urgent basis but there are huge pressures on court time and exceptional circumstances would be necessary.
Think about the reasons why you are objecting to your child having a holiday with the other parent. Realistically, the court is not going to prevent such a trip unless there are concerns for the child’s welfare, security risks concerning the destination, or a real risk that the parent will not bring back the child after the trip.
The fact that a country is not a member of the Hague Convention, a multilateral treaty which deals with the prompt return of children to their home country, would be grounds for concern.
If the holiday were to interfere with time already earmarked for the other parent then this might be a valid objection but would probably mean that the court would shorten the holiday rather than disallow it altogether.
At a final hearing, the court will have detailed witness statements of from each parent and will hear from them in evidence. The court will arrive at a decision based on the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration and in the light of its welfare checklist also found in the Children Act 1989.
Sometimes the court will only permit a holiday if payment of a bond is made. It may also require specific travel details to include proof of return travel arrangements.