How you prepare for a holiday with the children post-separation is extremely important. Often you will share parental responsibility with the other parent and therefore you should both be aware of any travel plans and consent to the same. A failure to obtain consent could be considered as child abduction which is a criminal offence in England and Wales.
The only exception is where a Child Arrangements Order is in force which enables the parent with whom the children ‘live’ to travel outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent. The travel must not impact on the time the other parent is to spend with the children as that could be considered as you breaching the court order.
To avoid having your holiday ruined by being served with an order directing you return the children to England and Wales or criminal proceedings you should always try to seek consent from the other parent before you travel.
Initially, you should provide the non-travelling parent with sufficient prior notice of your travel plans ideally to include a copy of the children’s return flight tickets, contact details of your accommodation and propose makeup contact in the event that the holiday will impact on the time the non-travelling parent spends with the children. This should be done in writing with a clear written record of your plans and the non-travelling parent’s agreement.
If agreement cannot be reached then you should consider mediation as a means by which to reach an agreement. This would enable you to understand any concerns the non-travelling parent might have and to reassure them of your intentions. It will also enable you to negotiate additional time with the children to make up for any time the non-travelling parent might miss out on as a result of the holiday.
If mediation is unsuccessful then you will need to make an application to the court for permission to travel with the children. In considering such an application the courts primary consideration will be the best interests of the children and you will therefore need to satisfy the judge that this is the case. Such an application might, amongst other things, involve your evidencing that the country you are travelling to is safe, that you intend to return to England and Wales and what links you and the children have both in this jurisdiction and the jurisdiction that you are visiting.
It is always safer to follow the correct route and to try and reach an agreement where possible. This can be harder when the trust has gone following a breakdown of a relationship but it will often assist you to put yourself in the non-travelling parent’s shoes and think about what would reassure you should the situation be reversed.