Plans for Christmas – know your rights

Christmas can be a stressful time of year for a number of reasons, even more so when two parents have separated and are now negotiating with each other over how the children’s Christmas holidays will look.  Some parents like to take their children away for Christmas but do not realise the additional hurdles they may have to overcome.

For starters if there is no formal court order in place regulating the arrangements for the children, then the parent who wishes to take the children abroad for Christmas will need the written consent from the other parent or from anyone who has Parental Responsibility for the children. This is essential as failing to do so could lead to criminal charges for child abduction.

Many may ask what the court class as going abroad. Abroad is defined as anywhere outside of the UK. The UK does not include the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.  There are 4 countries that form the UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island. However, it is worth remembering that they do not all share the same legal system. If you remove a child from one legal system within the UK to another legal system, this may effectively amount to going “abroad” such as travelling from England or Wales to Scotland.

If one parent refuses to give written consent to the other for the holiday, the issue can ultimately be decided by the Court if other forms of dispute resolution like mediation fail. However, parents should bear in mind just how overloaded the court system is meaning that even if an application were made to the Court today, there is a big risk it will not be heard before schools finish in mid-December. If the Court do have time to hear the case they will consider whether the holiday is in the best interests of the children and, in most cases, will grant permission for abroad travel provided there are no concerns about a child not being returned. However you should bear in mind that for the Christmas period, the court  will give consideration to both parents spending some time with the children and therefore permission to take the children abroad may not be given as readily as other times of the year.

It is always advisable to take legal advice before making any plans.

Tina Kingsbury is a solicitor in the family team at Barker Gotelee, solicitors in Suffolk.

Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email