What if people went on holiday and never came back?

Towards the end of a holiday it is not unusual for people to wish they could stay for longer, if not forever.

Towards the end of a holiday it is not unusual for people to wish they could stay for longer, if not forever. For most it is a day dream but as holiday time is also the opportunity to travel abroad to visit friends and relatives, never coming home could realistically be more than wishful thinking. If the quality of life is comparable or better to back home, language is no barrier and there is arguably a better emotional and financial support network available in the other country, why not?

For couples separating, facing the first summer holiday where they will take the children on holiday by themselves and then in turn their former partner will take the children away, there is inevitable misgiving surrounding the extended period of time they will not see their children. That anxiety can be overwhelming if the other parent is taking the children to a country that they once called ‘home’ and where they still  have strong family connections. So many parents find communication immensely challenging during the initial separation and this can lead to heightened anxiety when details such as contact telephone numbers, the address of the holiday accommodation, sight of the return flight tickets are not readily forthcoming.

A parent taking their child out of the UK without either a court order or the permission of the other parent commits a criminal offence. In these circumstances there are emergency applications that can be made governed by international treaties for children to be returned to the UK, although there remain countries who have not adopted the relevant treaty and seeking the return of children from these jurisdictions can be fraught with difficulty.  An ‘all ports alert’ can be sent out with the aim of preventing a parent physically leaving the UK with an abducted child. These are emergency measures though where the worst has already happened.

Parents concerned that their ex partner is planning to take their children abroad without informing them or has informed them but is reticent to provide the practical details and assurances one would expect, should consider making a prohibited steps application to the family court. This would require a judge to consider whether the other parent should be prevented from taking the children abroad or whether conditions need to be attached to the trip to do everything possible to secure the child’s return. Orders can include the children’s passports being surrendered to a solicitor, if the flight risk is considered high.

If a parent feels that their former partner is unreasonably withholding their consent to them taking the children on holiday, then they should similarly consider making an application to the court for permission to take the children away, demonstrating that this is a trip the children will enjoy and has been booked taking their needs and welfare fully into consideration and that all details have been communicated to the other parent. Unless the timescale requires urgent action to be taken, any parent wishing to make a court application will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and consider whether the impasse they have reached can be resolved through mediation. This will be a more costs effective and practical forum for dealing with most situations.

Any parent facing either of the situations outlined above is advised to seek specialist legal advice at the first opportunity.

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