With the summer holidays fast approaching, many parents are looking for that last-minute deal to take their child(ren) on holiday. Our Associate, Tom Main, covers some of the key legislation that parents should be aware of, as well as some practical tips to make the holiday planning go as smoothly as possible. So, what do you need to know?
Section 2 (3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 provides that no parent shall be entitled to remove a child habitually resident in Scotland from, or to retain any child outwith, the United Kingdom, without the consent of the other parent. So, if you are planning a trip within the United Kingdom then there is no need to worry.
However, if you seek some of that Spanish sun, a Portuguese paradise or even a Greek getaway, then you should make sure you have the consent of your child’s other parent, ideally before you book. The consent does not have to be in writing but it is often best to have it in writing to be on the safe side, just in case you of an overzealous border control officer!
If the other parent refuses to provide consent, then you can ask the Court to grant a Specific Issue Order allowing you to take your child abroad, despite the lack of consent. Whilst Solicitors will always do their utmost to resolve such issues without resorting to Court action, sometimes Court is the only option and therefore forward planning and early communication is essential.
If you wish to travel abroad with your child or children and are concerned about the requirement for parental consent, here are some practical tips which may avoid the need for Solicitors to become involved:-
Provide full details to the other parent about flight times, accommodation and your itinerary. The more information the other parent has, the more likely they are to feel included and they may provide their consent more willingly.
Ensure that passports are in date and are available for your trip. If you need to borrow passports, be clear that you intend to return them after the trip and you will hopefully find that they are handed over willingly.
3. Be considerate
Consider how the other parent may feel, especially if they are not able to take the child abroad. Be courteous and offer video calls or schedule phone calls with the other parent so that they can check in with the children. Again, the non-travelling parent is far more likely to provide consent if they are able to maintain some contact with the child or children.
4. Be flexible
If you haven’t booked yet, it would be worthwhile canvassing the other parent’s opinions on the proposed dates. The other parent may have anticipated spending time with the child or children for some of the time you intend to be on holiday and may have booked their own activities. By checking with them in advance of booking, any double-booking can be avoided and all parties’ wishes can be accommodated. Also, consider whether flexibility can be applied to your usual arrangements in order to compensate the other parent for the time they may lose with the child or children as a result of the holiday.
Whilst booking a holiday that slightly overlaps with term time by a few days may be cheaper, you should be mindful of the fact that in Scotland, schools will not normally give a family permission to take pupils out of school for holidays during term time. This means that if you were to take your child or children on holiday during term time, this will be recorded by the school as an unauthorised absence. It would then up to the education authorities to decide what sanctions they may use. The saving on the holiday could quickly be lost if a fine were to be imposed! Permission to holiday will be granted in some exceptional circumstances, such as where a family needs time to recover from distress or where a parent’s job restricts travel during school holidays (such as armed forces or emergency services). The other parent’s consent would also obviously still be required and where consent is not forthcoming, it is unlikely that a court would grant a specific issue order allowing travel during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Considering this, it may be advisable to avoid booking holidays during term time unless it is unavoidable.
The Courts expect parents to act in the best interests of their children and to exercise their Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights (in terms of Sections 1 and 2 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995) reasonably and courteously. It is always helpful, therefore, to remind yourself of the foregoing points and to cooperate as far as is reasonable. Hopefully, your goodwill will be reciprocated if foreign travel is to be undertaken by the other parent in the future.
If you have any questions around taking children abroad, then get in touch with our team of Family Law Experts today.