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Can You Take a Child on Holiday Without Telling the Ex?

Father daughter holiday in sunshine

It is always advisable for parents to keep each other informed of plans they have for their children in order to maintain an effective co-parenting relationship. If you are planning to take your child abroad, then you must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for that child prior to doing so. Surprisingly to some, failure to do so could amount to child abduction.

If there is a Court Order in place which sets out who the child lives with and spends time with, and it specifies that the child “lives with” you, if the proposed holiday falls within the child’s designated time with you, then you can take the child out of the UK for up to 28 days without first seeking the other parent’s consent. It is, however, important to give the other parent full details of the holiday including the dates, flight times and numbers, and the address of the accommodation.

It is worth noting that, in addition to the above, some countries have onerous border entry requirements to safeguard against child abduction and trafficking which could result in your being refused permission to fly or turned away at the border for non-compliance. These include travelling with the child’s birth certificate or with a sworn affidavit from the other parent consenting to the trip.


I have been separated from my ex-wife for two years. We have two children aged 4 and 7. I am now with a new partner. We have been together for six months and would like to take the children on holiday. My girlfriend has met the children and they get on very well. We would like to take them to Spain at half term, but my ex-wife will not agree. Can I legally insist on taking them away? 


You and your ex-wife share parental responsibility for your children. Any important decisions – from what school they go to, to whether they go on holiday abroad – need to be agreed by you both.

Your ex therefore has to agree to you taking the children to Spain before you can actually go. If you were to take them on the proposed holiday without her consent, this would be considered child abduction, irrespective of whether you have paid for flights and accommodation. The same applies if she wants to take the children abroad – she can only do so if you agree.

If there is a court order in place which sets out who your children are to live and spend time with, then the question of whether you need each other’s permission to take your children abroad is slightly different. If such an order exists and it specifies that the children “live with” you, and the proposed trip falls within your designated time with them, then you can take them out of the UK for up to 28 days without first seeking their mother’s consent.

Court order or not, it’s important to be as considerate and amicable as possible in these situations and to keep each other informed of plans for the children to maintain an effective co-parenting relationship between you. Neither party should disagree to the trip abroad in circumstances where it would be unreasonable to do so.

Despite your ex-wife’s initial objection, there is no reason you can’t settle this matter amicably. However it’s crucial to understand what lies behind her reluctance to allow you to take the children on holiday so that you can take steps to reassure her, as well as being willing to compromise:

  • How often do you see the children? If it’s relatively infrequently, your ex might worry that a seven night holiday might be too much, especially if they are relatively young. To build up to the proposed holiday, you might suggest a weekend trip in advance of that time so they get used to being away from their mum more, with frequent video calls (at fixed times so as not to interrupt your planned activities)
  • How well do your children know your new partner? You say they’ve met, but put yourself in your ex-wife’s shoes – she could be worried about the children spending a week with someone who is such a new figure in their lives, which may well be why she has said no to the holiday. You could offer reassurances by suggesting that the children gradually spend more time with your new partner and yourself, and possibly with your wife if that will help. But be aware that this may mean your holiday does not happen in the immediate future until everyone is comfortable with the arrangement.
  • How much have you told your wife about the proposed trip? Offering as much information as possible to your ex about things like the accommodation address, flight times and numbers, and sleeping arrangements will all be helpful in providing reassurance.

Hopefully, once your ex has all of the information above, she will feel better being in a position to agree to the holiday.

If your ex-wife will still not agree to the trip after you have tried all of the above, you can make an application to the court for permission to take the children abroad. But please be aware – going to court is both time-consuming and costly, and will almost certainly create animosity between the two of you.

Given how busy the courts are, if you were to make an application now, there is no guarantee that it could be heard and decided in time for you to have permission to take the children away over half term, and it may be that the holiday to Spain has to wait until next year. To avoid the same disappointment then, raise the idea of the holiday abroad with your ex early on – say at the start of the year – providing her with the type of detail set out above. By then the children will be older, they will know your partner better, and you can work on building trust with your ex in the meantime. If she is still being difficult, then you will have enough time to resort to the court to decide the issue.

You and the children may well be disappointed that you didn’t get to go to Spain this year, but there are plenty of other things that you can do to spend quality time with them and, in time, you can build up to that holiday in the Spanish sunshine.


This article has appeared in & Talented Ladies Club.

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