Separated parents and international travel during Covid restrictions
From 17 May, the ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation ceased and international travel was allowed to restart, albeit governed by a new traffic light system. Half term is coming up for many school children and of course some parents will want to take their children on holiday. What must you consider? Associate Melissa Jones from the Group’s specialist family and children law practice, McAlister Family Law, explains.
Firstly, if one parent wants to take a child abroad, whether permanently or temporarily, the other parent with parental responsibility needs to consent, and secondly, anyone with the benefit of a Child Arrangements Order (for the child to live with them) can remove the child from England and Wales for a period of less than one month without the consent of the other parent with parental responsibility.
What about Covid-19?
Because the situation is relatively fluid, it might be that the parent not going on holiday is nervous at the thought of the children travelling abroad, not least because of the fear that once in the destination country, your ex and your children might face a period of self-isolation upon their return. If you are the one wishing to travel bear in mind the so-called “traffic light system” may change and you could find yourself rushing to the borders to fly back to the UK at very little notice, in order to avoid going into quarantine. And there is the ever-present worry around the risk of the children either contracting the virus or transferring it.
If you do wish to travel abroad, the first step is to get written consent from other parent before travelling but even if you do, they may change their mind. Try to have an open discussion with the other parent and understand and alleviate any fears they may have by confirming:
* travel dates and times
* where you will be staying
* how you will be keeping the children safe throughout the holiday
* you are both aware of, and agree to, the rules around quarantine and testing if you’ve been in an amber list country and you both understand the restrictions these rules impose
Compromise and flexibility are key.
What happens if we cannot agree?
You can make an application to the court for a Specific Issue Order and the court will decide the matter. If an agreement cannot be reached and one parent fears the other parent will travel regardless, they can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order.
Will the court hear this matter in time?
The court is dealing with a significant amount of cases and there is no guarantee that it will be able to deal with an application such as this as quickly as might be necessary. Our advice is to deal with this matter before it becomes an urgent one. There are alternatives to making a court application, such as engaging your solicitor and seeing if the matter can be negotiated or referring to mediation to see if an agreement can be reached.