Travelling abroad with your child this Xmas – do you need the other parent’s consent?

November 26, 2018

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As a separated or divorced parent, you may be planning to take your child away with you this Christmas. Aside from all of the practical considerations, you will need to consider whether you have the consent of your child’s other parent to the trip. Increasingly immigration officials in other countries are requesting not only a letter evidencing the other parent’s consent but also a notarised consent to travel. Specialist family lawyer Elizabeth Fletcher of Family Law in Partnership spoke to Sukhpal Matharoo, a Notary Public at specialist employment law firm Doyle Clayton, who is experienced in drawing up these kinds of agreements. He has kindly prepared a guest blog for clients of Family Law in Partnership setting out the practical considerations to be borne in mind when obtaining a notarised consent to travel.

Sukhpal Matharoo says:

“I am a notary public, an independent public officer whose role it is to authenticate documents to be used abroad. Recently, I have been asked to prepare and notarise consents to travel in the following circumstances:

  • Where only one parent is travelling abroad with their child; or
  • Where neither parent is travelling with the child who is instead being accompanied by friends or other family members on a trip overseas.

In such circumstances immigration authorities can become concerned if they believe that the child may be being taken somewhere without one or both parents’ knowledge and consent. They may, therefore, detain the travelling party at the airport pending clarification which can obviously be hugely frustrating and stressful for all concerned. I have on occasion been asked to arrange an expedited consent to travel by an absent parent who I have to see urgently. I then need to prepare the required documentation before sending it overseas. However, this process can take time particularly if, as is required by some countries, the document needs to be consularised by the UK Embassy of the relevant country as well. I, therefore, recommend that parents check with the relevant Embassy before travelling to see if a consent to travel is required or recommended. A consent to travel is widely required in South Africa, Portugal and Russia. However with increasing concerns about issues such as child abduction and people trafficking following recent high profile cases, it is likely that the countries expecting to see this type of documentation will expand moving forward. I am very much aware that often it can be difficult to get a definitive response to this question from an Embassy and if in doubt I would always recommend obtaining a formal consent to travel.

Preparing a formal consent to travel

I need to meet both parents and to see the children who are to travel. I also need to see the following original documents:

  • Passports of the parents;
  • Passports of the children; and
  • Birth certificates of the children.

Once I have met the parents and children I can prepare the required consent to travel documentation which the absent parent(s) will need to sign. I will then notarise the document and (if required) send it off for any necessary consularisation. It is important to allow sufficient time to complete this process which can take one week or more if consularisation is required.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by email at E: SMatharoo@doyleclayton.co.uk or by telephone on T: +44 (0)118 951 6767 (Direct).”

Elizabeth Fletcher is a director at Family Law in Partnership. She has specialised in family law for over 10 years. She focuses on all aspects of family breakdown, but has a specific interest in managing arrangements for children both in and out of the court arena as well as resolving financial disputes arising from the breakdown of a marriage or relationship. As the mother of a young child herself, Elizabeth understands all the practical aspects that need to be addressed by parents dealing with a separation and the different anxieties which parents may have in managing those issues.

Sukhpal Matharoo is a partner at specialist employment law firm, Doyle Clayton. Sukhpal provides employment advice to a broad range of commercial and individual clients. His main area of expertise includes TUPE and he also has considerable experience of advising on redundancy and the exit of senior level executives. Sukhpal is also a notary public and provides notarial and legalisation services from the Firm’s London and Reading offices.