Travelling abroad with children with a different surname.

With the summer holidays in full swing and the first year since 2019 that Covid restrictions haven’t hindered vacation plans, it is no surprise that people are eager to escape to the sun for some much needed rest and relaxation.

However, if you are planning to travel abroad this summer and you have a different surname to a child travelling with you, then you might encounter difficulties at border controls, which could cause delay or worse, mean you miss your trip. With security and bag drop waiting times already causing havoc at airports globally due to the staff shortage created by the pandemic, you certainly don’t want to risk additional hold-ups.

In the UK, you must get permission from those with parental rights and responsibilities (PR&Rs) – this will be the child’s parent/s or legal guardian. Parental responsibility is essentially the duty to care for and protect your child. You automatically have PR&Rs if you are the child’s mother. Fathers obtain PR&Rs if they are married to the child’s mother or if they subsequently marry the child’s mother, or if they are registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate.

It is important to remember that even parents with PR&Rs will need permission from anyone else with PR&Rs before they take the child abroad. The easiest solution is to obtain a travel consent letter from the person/s with PR&Rs. The letter should have as much detail as possible, making clear that they are happy for the child to travel with you, proving that there is informed consent. You should include your details, the dates and details of travel, their consent and passport details. You must also ensure that the letter is signed, dated and witnessed. Note that in some cases, depending on where the child is travelling to, a child travel consent form may require a Notary Public signature. It is always wise to check official advice before you travel and allow plenty of time to obtain the document.

Additional information may be required by border control authorities or airlines, such as:-

  • evidence to show the relationship with the child (e.g. a birth certificate, adoption certificate or legal guardianship order); or
  • marriage or divorce certificate if you are a single parent but your surname is different from your child’s surname.

If the other parent refuses their written permission, it might be necessary to go to court to obtain permission. The court will always put the welfare needs of the child first and they will consider the reasons and intentions behind the trip, including the length of the trip; the destination; and where the child will be staying. Like any court action, it can be a lengthy and expensive process and it will always be better if an agreement can be reached through other means. Following Brexit, there may also be issues regarding the enforceability of court orders in EU countries and specialist advice should be sought.

It is always advisable to research your own position well before you travel to avoid any last minute complications. If you are concerned about your own travel plans and require expert advice, or require a Notary Public signature, please get in touch with our family law team on 01955 604188.