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I'm worried my children won't come back from their holiday

Tags: holidays, going abroad, court
Content Types: Legal

On theParentConnection forum, we often receive posts from users who are worried about their ex-partner taking their child on holiday abroad. The reason most of them worry is because they are concerned that they may never see their child again.

We ask Adele Wilkinson, partner and mediation specialist at law firm Andrew Jackson to give advice to parents who worry that their children may not return from holiday.

There are many reasons why a parent might want to take children abroad these days - for a holiday, to visit relatives or even to relocate on a permanent basis.

As we move further into the 21st century, we are helping a growing number of families who have international links - for instance, families where parents come from different countries, or different continents. 

When relationships involving parents of different nationalities break down, there are often worries about where the children will live or anxieties about whether children will return from visits abroad.

In an ideal world, parents would agree between themselves, or with the help of a mediator, where – and with whom - the children are going to live, as well as when they will visit relatives abroad.  Unfortunately, when relationships are strained, it isn't always possible to work together as co-operating parents.

What happens if one parent wants to take the children out of the country permanently?

In theory, if one parent wants to take the children out of the country on a permanent basis, they should apply to the court for permission to do that. 

If the other parent doesn't agree, the court will make a decision based on the facts of the individual case. 

If the court feels that it would be in the children’s best interests to move abroad permanently, an order would be made to that effect, but the order would also be likely to contain comprehensive details of when the children would spend time with the non-resident parent too.

My ex-partner is taking the children out of the country without permission

In practice, parents sometimes take their children out of the country without permission.  If you suspect that your ex-partner may be thinking of doing this, then it is possible to apply to the court for an emergency order to stop them leaving the country until the court has heard the case properly and made its decision.  If it’s too late for that, and your ex has already left the country with your children, then it is still possible to use the court system to try and bring the children back.  However, this is a much more difficult route to take, particularly if you don't know where the children are.

As with any issue about children, the best way forward is always to try and reach an amicable agreement about what's going to happen with the help of a mediator and, if necessary, the court is there to make decisions for you.

Adele Wilkinson is a partner and mediation specialist at law firm Andrew Jackson. She has practised as a family lawyer since 1989.  She has a wealth of experience in dealing with financial, children and domestic violence issues.  Adele is Chair of Hull & East Yorkshire Resolution (the national family lawyers association) and practices the Resolution Code of Conduct to represent family clients through the Court process in a civilised, non adversarial way, when other methods of dispute resolution are not appropriate.

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