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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

If you’re worried your child will be taken overseas without permission

People usually agree when they split up where and when children can be taken overseas. If you haven’t agreed and aren’t happy with the other parent’s plans, you can consider court action to stop them. Find out when you should take action to stop children being taken overseas.

When children can go overseas with the other parent

Usually you will have agreed with the other parent about when they can take children overseas and for how long. Sometimes this will have been an informal arrangement you have made.

If you disagree over a specific trip, you should try to resolve the issue with the other parent of the child if it’s possible.

Residence orders and taking children overseas

If you have a ‘residence order’ from the court, the law says you can take the child out of the UK for up to a month without both parents agreeing.

If the other parent hasn’t got a residence order, they can’t take them outside of the UK unless you and everyone else who has parental responsibility agrees.

If you have already got a court order about whether or not the child can travel, you can remind your partner of the conditions and try to reach agreement.

If you can’t reach agreement with the other parent

If you can’t reach agreement, or you are concerned that your child will be taken overseas for longer than the court has permitted, you can consider taking action.

You should think about doing the following:

  • go to your local police station and make a statement (they’ll tell airports, ports and train stations if you think the child is about to be taken out of the country)
  • write to your local passport service office asking them not to give your child a passport – but you will need a court order for this
  • if the other parent is from another country contact the other parent’s embassy and ask them not to give your child a passport

Court orders if you want to prevent a child from travelling overseas

You can apply to a court for one or more of the following:

  • a ‘prohibited steps order’ dealing with travel (meaning the other parent can’t take your child anywhere without your permission)
  • a ‘residence order’ (saying your child should live with you)
  • a ‘parental responsibility order' (giving you the rights and duties of a parent if you don’t already have parental responsibility)
  • an ‘injunction’ preventing the other parent from taking your child overseas
  • the child to be made a ‘ward of the High Court’ (meaning that taking your child out of the UK without the court’s permission is illegal)

You don’t have to tell the other parent you’ve applied for a court order. The court may tell the other parent that you have applied.

It’s a good idea to get legal advice if you want to apply for a court order or injunction in these circumstances.

Information you need to hand if your child is taken overseas

If you’re worried your child will be taken overseas, or they have already been taken overseas, you should keep key information close to you. Having fast access to this information can help speed up a solution to the problem.

Information about your child

You should keep to hand as much information about your child as possible, including:

  • full name
  • date and place of birth
  • passport number, date and place of issue
  • photographs and a physical description
  • details of any rights they have to a foreign passport and details of that passport if it has been issued

Information about the person who has taken or may take your child overseas

Information about the person who has taken or may take you child will also be important. You should gather together as much as you can, including:

  • full name (including any former or maiden name and any aliases)
  • date and place of birth
  • passport number, date and place of issue of British and of any foreign passport
  • photographs and a physical description
  • what they do for a living
  • probable date of departure
  • departure information (for example - flight, train, ferry)
  • details of ties to a foreign country, such as the names, addresses and telephone numbers of relatives, friends and business contacts

Copies of documents you’ll need

If you have documents relating to your child, they can be very useful. You should try to make sure you have to hand:

  • any agreements or court orders about your child
  • your child's birth certificate
  • your marriage certificate or divorce decree (if relevant)

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