Information

Travel and Relocation

This information page provides information on domestic & international travel and relocation. It will provide advice on the circumstances which require consent to be provided in order to travel domestically or internationally with a child and the options available if consent is not provided.

Introduction


NOTE: This information page provides the general legal position. There are circumstances in which a court order has terms included which are specific to the case in question and contradict the general legal position explained below. Therefore, consult the court order first (if there is a court order in place) as this will take precedence. 



This page describes the legal position on travel and relocation in the UK and outside of the UK according to three common set of circumstances.  

  • Scenario 1: I have a Special Guardianship Order, a Residence Order (granted before 22/04/2014) or I am named as the person with whom the child lives under a Child Arrangements Order
  • Scenario 2: There is a court order in place that regulates arrangements relating to the children, i.e. Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order and I am the non-resident parent. 
  • Scenario 3: There is no court order in place that regulates arrangements relating to the children, i.e. Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order.  

Locate the scenario below which applies and the legal position will be explained. 


Scenario 1:
I have a Special Guardianship Order, a Residence Order (granted before 22/04/2014) or I am named as the person with whom the child lives under a Child Arrangements Order. 
Domestic Travel (in the UK) 
Child Abduction
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to travel within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
Court order regulating arrangements relating to the children
However, in relation to the court order that regulates arrangements relating to the children, the situation does become complicated if the period of travel coincides with the court ordered contact time of the non-resident parent. It would be expected that alternative arrangements should be offered in order to compensate the non-resident parent for their missed contact. Otherwise, the parent left behind has the option of applying for the Child Arrangements Order/Contact Order to be enforced on the basis of the child not being made available for contact. 
Domestic Relocation (in the UK) 
Child Abduction 
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to relocate within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
Court order regulating arrangements relating to the children
However, in relation to the court order regulating arrangements relating to the children, the relocating parent is under a legal obligation to continue providing court ordered contact to the non-resident parent. The relocating parent would need to consider applying for a variation of the Child Arrangements Order/Contact Order if it is not feasible to continue providing the court ordered contact, due to distance for example. 
It is also worth bearing in mind that relocating is a significant step in a child’s life and therefore it is strongly recommend that the consent of the non-resident parent is sought. The non-resident parent has the option of applying for a prohibited steps order to seek to prevent the relocation from occurring. Alternatively, in the case of a child being removed to Scotland or Northern Ireland, there is also the option of invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court in order to secure the return of the child. 
Foreign Travel (outside the UK) 
In the case of being the person with whom the child lives with under a Special Guardianship Order, there is not a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility as long as the duration of travel does not exceed three months.
In the case of being the person with whom the child lives with under a Residence Order or a Child Arrangements Order, there is not a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility as long as the duration of travel does not exceed 28 days. 
The above exceptions are contained in section 1, sub-section 4 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 and section 13, sub-section 2 of the Children Act 1989 (in the case of a child arrangements order) and section 14C, sub-section 4 of the Children Act 1989 (in the case of a special guardianship order). 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or seek the permission of the court (through a Specific Issue Order) if the duration of travel exceeds three months or 28 days respectively. 
In the event that the period of travel coincides with the allotted contact time of the non-resident parent, It would be expected that alternative arrangements should be offered in order to compensate the non-resident parent for their missed contact. 
Foreign Relocation (outside the UK) 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court in order to relocate outside the UK (through a Removal from Jurisdiction Order).

Scenario 2: 
There is a court order in place that regulates arrangements relating to the children, i.e. Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order and I am the non-resident parent. 
Domestic Travel (in the UK) 
Child Abduction 
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to travel within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
Court order regulating arrangements relating to the children
In relation to the court order that regulates arrangements relating to the children, the non-resident parent does not require the consent of the person with whom the child lives with in order to travel within the UK during their allotted contact time. However, the consent of the person with whom the child lives with or the permission of the court is required in order for the non-resident parent to travel within the UK outside of their allotted contact time. 
Domestic Relocation (in the UK) 
Child Abduction 
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to relocate within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
Court order regulating arrangements relating to the children
In relation to the court order that regulates arrangements relating to the children, the non-resident parent would require the consent of the person with whom the child lives with in order to relocate within the UK. The non-resident parent would be in breach of the court order if they were to relocate without gaining consent. 
Foreign Travel (outside the UK) 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court (through a Specific Issue Order).
Foreign Relocation (outside the UK) 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court (through a Removal From Jurisdiction Order).

Scenario 3: 
There is no court order in place that regulates arrangements relating to the children, i.e. Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order. 
Domestic Travel (in the UK) 
Child Abduction 
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to travel within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
However, it would be considered reasonable to inform the other parent about any plans to travel within the UK. 
Domestic Relocation (in the UK) 
Child Abduction 
In relation to the law on Abduction, there is not a legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility in order to relocate within the UK. This is because the criminal offence of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. 
However, It is worth bearing in mind that relocating is a significant step in a child’s life and therefore it is strongly recommend that the consent of the other parent is sought. The left behind parent has the option of applying for a prohibited steps order to seek to prevent the relocation from occurring. Alternatively, in the case of a child being removed to Scotland or Northern Ireland, there is also the option of invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court in order to secure the return of the child. 
Foreign Travel (outside the UK) 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court (through a Specific Issue Order).
Foreign Relocation (outside the UK) 
There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court (through a Removal From Jurisdiction Order).

If you are unable to obtain the consent of other persons with parental responsibility, it is possible to seek the permission of the court.

There is a legal requirement to attempt mediation before an application can be made to court. For more information see our page on Family Mediation.

If mediation is unsuccessful, an application can be made to court for a Specific Issue Order or a Removal from Jurisdiction Order depending on the circumstances. A Removal from Jurisdiction Order would be necessary if relocating abroad on a permanent basis or for a considerable duration of time whereas a Specific Issue Order would be used in all other circumstances. 

The relevant court form to make an application for a Specific Issue Order would be a C100 form

For further information on Removal from Jurisdiction please see our How to Guide

We advise that consent be written in the form of a letter and it is signed and dated and includes the contact details of all those with parental responsibility. 

It is also worth checking with the travel operator and border control agencies whether any other forms of evidence will be required in order to prove that the child is travelling with the appropriate consent. The evidence required will often differ according to the destination and how strict their individual requirements are. 

Please note that some countries have very strict visa requirements. We are aware that since June 2015, South Africa has extra requirements where only one parent is travelling with a child under 18, where a child is unaccompanied or where a child is travelling with someone other than their parent(s). For more information see the government South Africa entry requirements page.

For information on other country travel requirements consult the government Foreign Travel Advice page.


An application can be made to court for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent a parent or other person with parental responsibility from travelling/relocating with the child. 

The application for a prohibited steps order would be made on a C100 form but the applicant is legally required to attempt mediation with the respondent prior to making the application to court. 

Please note that it is possible to apply for a prohibited steps order to prevent a parent or other person with parental responsibility from travelling/relocating with the child even if they are not legally required to seek consent before travelling/relocating. 

View our information page on Abduction which explains the legal position if the child has been taken out of the UK without the required consent. 

What can I do if my child has been taken somewhere within England and Wales and I do not know their whereabouts? 

There is the option of making an application to court for ‘disclosure of a child’s whereabouts’. For further information please view our page on Locating a child.