Most parent’s would generally agree that it is in their child’s best interest to be able to have the opportunity to enjoy a holiday abroad. However when parents separate and emotions are running high people often act out of character and place their own needs before that of the child. Can you ex withhold your child’s passport?
What if your ex-partner has booked a holiday without consulting you and is planning to travel abroad without your permission?
Firstly it is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without the consent of everybody with parental responsibility unless the court has given permission. However, if an order has been made that a child is to live with a person, that person may take that child out of the UK for up to a month at a time.
It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without the consent of everybody with parental responsibility unless the court has given permission
If there are no orders in place or you are the one who has the order your permission must be sought. If you do not consent to the holiday your ex-partner is entitled to make an application to the Court for what is known as a specific issue order to request permission to travel. Unless there is a safeguarding concern or a risk that your ex-partner will not return with the child it is likely that such an application would be granted. It is important therefore that you consider fully the reasons why you are not willing to consent.
What can you do if your ex-partner is holding your child’s passport and is refusing to hand it over to enable you to book a holiday or even to attend a holiday that has already been booked?
If you do not have a living with order (previously known as a Residence Order) in your favour then you would need your ex-partners permission to remove the child out of the UK for a holiday. As stated above you would be able to make an application to the Court for permission to take the child on holiday and for the passport to be released.
If the holiday has already been booked and your ex-partner is refusing to hand the passport over then you would have to make an urgent application for the release of the passport. Provided you can show that there is no reason why the child should not be able to accompany you on the holiday and that you plan to return to the country after the holiday there should not be any issue with securing the order in your favour.
Often in these situations the problem relates to trust, with the party wishing to go on the holiday being reluctant to divulge their plans in any detail and the person holding the passport refusing to release it without having a full itinerary.
People should be encouraged to put aside their differences and provide full details of their travel plans to include flight numbers, dates and times and the contact details of the hotel or other accommodation.
Arrangements should also be made for facetime/telephone contact during the holiday to provide reassurance that all is well. If you are concerned that this is going to be a recurring problem then it is possible for there to be an order that the passport is held by solicitors and released only for the purpose of a holiday after which it is returned.
If there is a genuine concern that the child will not be returned after the holiday and you are the parent holding the passport it is important that you notify the passport office that the passport has not been lost. There have been cases where sadly a parent has indicated that a passport has been lost and obtained and new one enabling them to travel. Once a child has left the UK it can be extremely difficult to secure their return, depending on where they have travelled to. Signposting to additional support and relevant organisations can be found in this link.
Postscript. Issues arising out of divorce or separation can often prove stressful for the couple and other family members. This article written by Dylan Watkins GP offers a useful overview for those who may be struggling.