My child has a different surname to me – do I need to do anything before travelling abroad?

In a growing number of situations parents do not share the same surname as their children. This can sometimes pose issues at passport control when trying to take children abroad on holiday. Ensuring you have the right documentation and have undertaken some research prior to the holiday will reduce the risk of problems at the border!

First and foremost, permission must be obtained from all parents with parental responsibility before taking a child abroad unless there is a court order in place specifically allowing a parent to take the child abroad. Removing a child from the UK without obtaining the appropriate consent is child abduction which is a criminal offence. If consent is being withheld or been withdrawn orders can be applied for granting permission to take the child abroad and advice would need to be sought in this instance.

In circumstances where the child and the parent travelling with them do not share the same surname, specific documents may be requested at the UK or foreign border. Parents may find that they are questioned and/or documents are requested from them to ensure that they are the parent of the child and/or that they have the appropriate consent to enable them to take the child on the intended holiday. This is to protect against child trafficking and child abduction.

Whenever you travel with a child and the other person with parental responsibility will not be joining you on the trip, it is advisable to obtain a letter from the person that is not travelling confirming that they have consented to the trip in question, setting out their contact details and the reasons for travel. In addition to this and in particular in cases where the parent does not have the same surname as the child, you should also take with you further documentation to prove your relationship with the child. This could include passports, the child’s birth certificate, the parents’ marriage certificate, the parent’s birth certificate, any relevant change of name deed and court orders relating to the child. If one of the parents has sadly passed away, you may also be required to take with you a copy of their death certificate.

The country being visited may also have its own policies which can vary from country to country.  It is important to check whether the destination you are travelling to has any specific requirements to ensure you do not have issues when entering that country or leaving it after the holiday. South Africa, for example, reserves the right to request a copy of the child’s unabridged birth certificate before granting entry into the country, a short unabridged version may not be accepted. Canada also have specific requirements which include presenting a copy of the child’s birth certificate, a letter of authorisation in English or French signed by the parent which is not travelling with them which lists the address and telephone number of the parent who is not travelling and a photocopy of that parent’s signed passport or national identity card. The home office and the destination country’s embassy are good points of contact for specific information on a country’s individual requirements. For some countries a letter of consent may not be sufficient and a court order may be required. If this is the case, the parent may wish to take legal advice to ensure the correct order is applied for to ensure a smooth start to the holiday!

If you require any advice in relation to an impending holiday or other children disputes, then please contact our offices and a member of our team will be more than happy to assist you.

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