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How do I stop my ex from taking my child out of the country

It is becoming more common for people to consider relocating outside of the UK. This can cause several problems if people have separated and one parent wants to leave the UK and take a child with them.

How you can stop this from happening depends on what is in the best interests of your child and may have to be determined by a court.

My ex wants to take my child on Holiday, are they allowed?

It is likely to be considered in the best interests of a child to go on a holiday with either of their parents. Children enjoy holidays and can learn from them. Everyone with parental responsibility for the child needs to provide consent for the child to be taken on holiday. It is always best to try and agree holiday plans and to provide reassurance by confirming to the other parent;-

1. the dates you travel out of the country

2. the date you arrive back

3. the method of travel – plane, ferry, euro-star and the details of flights and crossings.

4. the details of the place you will be staying

5. a phone number in case of emergencies

If the parent who is not going on holiday is likely to miss some of their contact time, this should be made up either before or after the holiday.

If a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order specifying who a child should live with exists, then the parent with the benefit of that order can  take a child on holiday for a period of up to 28 days without any one else’s consent.

Even in these circumstances it is better for the holiday to be agreed. If a Contact Order or Child Arrangements Order for a child to have contact with a parent is in place, it is important not to breach the terms. This is why it is better to obtain agreement and rearrange any contact that is likely to be missed rather than simply going on holiday and potentially breaching an order for contact.

If consent is not obtained and there are no court orders in place and a parent attempts to take the child anyway, then there is a risk that the child could be classed as abducted. The definition of abduction is if a child is taken out of the UK without the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for that child or an order of the court. These situations must be avoided and a court application can be made to court for an order whether the child should go on the holiday or not.

Consideration can be given to reciprocal enforcement of any order made in the UK courts, in the courts of the country being travelled to. This is important so that if the child is not returned to the UK, measures can be taken to obtain the safe return of the child.  

My ex wants to move abroad with my child and I do not agree.

If both parents agree that the child should move abroad, then as long as consent is given and arrangements are made for contact, the move can take place.

Difficulties arise when the move is not agreed. A parent cannot take a child to live abroad without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child or an order of the court.  

There are two types of orders that the court can make. A Prohibited Steps Order, which prevents something from happening and a Specific Issue Order, which determines whether something should happen. The parent remaining in the UK may also consider applying for a Child Arrangements Order for the child to live with them.

The issue is never whether the other parent can leave the UK but whether the child should go with them.

If the parent intending to leave can show as far as is practically possible, that the decision has been made soundly, they have a place to live, school arrangements in place for the child, employment arranged and contact arrangements have been considered, it is likely that the court will allow the child to go.

Moves of this nature will only be prevented if the move looks to have been made without proper consideration, it isn’t in the child’s best interests or the child is old enough and expresses a wish to remain in the UK.

If a move is well considered and necessary, it may be more sensible to focus on the arrangements for contact with the child rather than trying to prevent them leaving. It is important to ensure that the child maintains an equally important relationship with the parent that is not moving abroad. For example, the parent not moving abroad may be able to have the child every school holiday, thus spending a significant proportion of the year with them. The parent wanting to take the child abroad may also have to make financial provision for the cost of transporting the child to and from the UK for contact. The willingness of the parent to facilitate contact will be an important consideration of any Court when determining an issue of whether a child should be taken to live outside of the UK.

If the child is allowed by order of the court to live abroad and either a Contact Order or a Child Arrangements Order setting out the time the child should spend with the parent is made, it is important to make sure that the UK order is enforceable in that country too. Further provisions may have to be made to ensure this.

What can I do if I think my ex is removing my child without permission?

There are some urgent steps that can be taken:-

1. Phone the Police immediately

2. Consider whether a Port alert is necessary

3. Consider contacting the passport agency to restrict the passport.

4. If there is time, make an urgent application to court for a Prohibited Steps Order.

The most important thing is to make sure the Police know. An application to court for an order to prevent the removal or for return of the child should then be made. It is advisable to instruct a solicitor to do this so that the process is completed properly, quickly and with correct reference to the law.

If you wish to discuss any matter concerning your child further please contact us. Emma Hubbard is a Family Solicitor at Cartwright King. We are able to assist in all family law matters and have 14 offices around the UK. Emma can be contacted on 07889648497 or For our other regional offices please contact 0845 894 1622.

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