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Advice / experiences appreciated: LP taking children abroad

(20 Posts)
hopeforthebestplanfortheworst Fri 14-Nov-14 00:12:59


I am a LP with 2 children both born outside of marriage. Oldest has father on birth certificate (so PR), youngest doesn't. Both have his surname. He's had no contact with oldest child in 4 yrs and never met youngest (his choice). He pays maintenance but through CSA deduction of earnings and against his wishes.

I got passports for my children yrs ago & have been recently been feeling it's the right time to organise our first trip abroad.

Then I started hearing / reading potential issues... I may be stopped at boarder control here or abroad (then sent home) as we have different surnames, although I think (?) taking a copy of their birth certificates would solve this?

...more worrying, as the father is on the birth certificate of the elder child & he has PR I am not allowed to take them out of the country without the fathers permission, or I could be done for abduction??

The issue I have is that he has no contact with me or our children so how does a situation like this work? I don't know where he is, CSA must know but it's not information I have access to. I could maybe in theory make contact via his mother if she's where she was yrs ago or possibly through past mutual friends but I am really scared of opening up that can of worms & reigniting any form of contact. I doubt he'd agree anyway. He was not a nice person and being in our children's life in any way will be detrimental without question. He has an emotionally abusive / controlling past with me, I don't want to go there again with our children.

Does anyone know my options please?? Do I need a residence order (or whatever its called these days)? I've read you have to have made reasonable steps to contact the father to get one, I don't know where he lives or works & CSA wouldn't tell me due to data protection so don't know what that means to my situation.

Surely it's not in my child's interests that we literally cannot go abroad until they're 16/18 yrs old. He is absent, we live in same place as when he left so he would've made contact if he'd wanted to, I have raised them on my own for yrs with no input (beyond the unreliable enforced financial support)... how can we be in a situation where he can stop something which would be good & normal & fun & life enhancing for my wonderful child who already deals with the unavoidable disadvantages having one parent brings.

I am so very upset by this & hoping I've misunderstood. Any advice / experiences gratefully received. They just want to go to a different country like their friends and why shouldn't they :'-(

Sorry this is so long, thanks for reading. I probably won't be back online til tm eve so I'm not ignoring any replies posted before then.

hopeforthebestplanfortheworst Fri 14-Nov-14 00:19:07

(also posted in lone parents group)

Hrrrm Fri 14-Nov-14 00:21:30

Don't poke the bear, or whatever that phrase is! I've always been fine taking my DC abroad on my own. My exH is on the birth certificate, not estranged, in full knowledge etc. never been asked anything by passport control.
To be on the safe side, perhaps go to a solicitor for a free 30 min appointment? Then you'll have certainty.

But if you're happy with how things are, don't contact him. Your return tickets will also indicate that you're planning to come back.

lavenderhoney Fri 14-Nov-14 00:23:08

Where are you planning? Ferry? Plane?

Take the birth certs, and call the airline or ferry terminal people and check what will happen and what you need. Many people who are unmarried travel alone with their dc.

The only question you have is " my surname is different from my dc. Will that affect our travel plans?" " how do I fix this?"

Call the airline/ ferry co. you plan to book with and ask.

Iflyaway Fri 14-Nov-14 00:31:33

It may be worth your while having a look at the website.

It's technically for children that have been abducted but they have specialist lawyers on there who would easily know about your situation, rather than a random lawyer or asking the airline, who may not even know the info you are seeking.

A birth certificate copy can't harm to have with you just in case when you travel.

I'm a LP with a different surname to DCs.

Oh, and have a great holiday! smile

STIDW Fri 14-Nov-14 02:44:27

Contact and Residence Orders have been replaced by Child Arrangement Orders. Unless there is a CAO determining the children live with you
it is a criminal offence to take children abroad without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility for a child or permission from the court - try googling s1 Child Abduction Act.

Of course the usual week or fortnights family holiday isn't child abduction and it isn't an offence to take children abroad if consent is unreasonably withheld, you believe the other parent would give consent or you have taken reasonable steps to trace the other parent. The problem is if you don't have consent and going abroad becomes an issue the authorities won't know whether it's child abduction, or if consent has unreasonably been withheld etc until they investigate.

That means there is potential for you to have your holiday spoilt if you are delayed leaving the country at ports, immigration in the country you visit insist on written consent/permission. Last year, for example, a father applied to court to prohibit his wife from taking the children abroad at Christmas because he thought there was a flight risk. He wasn't successful but the mother had to attend court on the day she and the children were due to travel and she missed the train.

To avoid that if you don't know where the father is and have taken reasonable measures to trace him you can apply to court for a Specific Issue Order and ask the court for permission to take the children abroad on holiday. When necessary the courts can find someone.

BitOutOfPractice Fri 14-Nov-14 02:50:30

Ive regularly taken other people's kids abroad (ie different surname) and never been questioned or stopped but I can imagine you're going to worry about it now so may be worth getting advice

SavoyCabbage Fri 14-Nov-14 02:58:27

What is likely to happen is that when you go through passport control they will ask your dc some casual questions. You probably wouldn't even notice if you weren't looking out for them.

"Mum taking you on holiday is she?"
"Dad not coming?"
"Are you coming back before school starts?"

To establish your situation and plans.

I would advise just practicing with your dc. The last time I flew I was in a really complicated situation so I coached my dc on the flight so they wouldn't say

"Daddy can't come because he was refused a visa so we had to ,save him behind and we might come to live in England forever but daddy is not allowed"

We went with "daddy has to work" instead.

Graciescotland Fri 14-Nov-14 03:04:02

I've travelled a lot with DS1 who has a different surname. Carry a copy of birth certificate. Whilst I've sometimes been stopped at customs, there's never been a problem beyond someone saying technically they could deny entry.

DrankSangriaInThePark Fri 14-Nov-14 06:18:16

Here is what the immigration agency says:

They are really cracking down (quite rightly, to avoid parental abduction) on this. I have a different surname to dd and although dp has no issue with us travelling without him, I always go armed with birth certificates, a witnessed letter from him giving consent, and photocopies of all of his documents. I am frequently stopped.

In your situation, I imagine, (but please wait until someone legal pops along to advise rather than all of these anecdotes!) some kind of letter confirming you have no contact would be enough. Do make sure though, especially, if he does have PR.

IIRC MN have a page as well on this. (I did tell them the different surnames thing was a bit of a red herring as the immigration guidelines are about one parent travelling without the other, it's just that a different surname gets flagged up I suppose)

BTw, it would be unlikely to be as you leave the UK, as there are no doc controls after check in, it would be as you come back in, or as you enter the other country. I have never once been stopped leaving the UK, or entering Italy (where I live) but the other way round, more times than I can shake a stick at.

Don't worry though, do your research and have a lovely holiday!

DrankSangriaInThePark Fri 14-Nov-14 06:28:26

Here is the MN page which seems fairly exhaustive:

BitOutOfPractice Fri 14-Nov-14 07:54:27

I wonder why I've never been stopped then? Odd

I shall take more paperwork with me in future now!

DrankSangriaInThePark Fri 14-Nov-14 08:11:41

And if you want a real confused anecdote.....I took a group of teenagers on a school trip this summer. Wasn't asked if I had permission to take them out of the country. Only the one I'd given birth to. How logical is that? (though I suppose it reinforces that the stopping and checking is for parental abduction rather than taking a group of galumphin' teens on holiday.

OwlCapone Fri 14-Nov-14 08:14:43

Perhaps they assume no one would be stupid enough to try and abduct a group of galumphing teens smile

I've never had any trouble but I do have the same surname as my children. XH has never had trouble either.

forago Fri 14-Nov-14 08:20:26

I travel with my 3 DC and my partner, who is their father. We are unmarried and they have his surname. I've noticed over the last couple of years that it takes a lot longer to get through passport control and they give us a lot more scrutiny. They used to just wave us through but now they study each passport and ask each kid to identify which one they are. I am assuming this is because of new guidelines about children travelling and abductions.

DrankSangriaInThePark Fri 14-Nov-14 08:28:23

grin Owl- or perhaps the sight of all their parents going "no, no, please, don't worry about bringing them back, keep them as long as you want, it's really not a problem"

lavenderhoney Fri 14-Nov-14 18:42:31

Oh, yes, as soon as my dc ours walk and talk they were asked questions such as " is that your sister? What's her name?" And " can you point to your mum?" Once I was fixed with a beady eye by an official and they said " why isn't your dh with you to help?" And I said " he is working" the customs official ( male) said " really??"

Dd was once asked her name. " Is it x?" " No" she replied.
Heavy silence.
Then she said " it's princess xsmile". We all sighed with reliefsmile

Greengrow Fri 14-Nov-14 21:32:49

Never had a problem at all and I've taken all 5 all over the globe. Their father has chosen not to communicate with me and most of them for 10 years so never sought permission from him but he wouldn't mind at all as it's just family holidays. We all have the same surname.

What is said on the thread is correct however so you might want to carry their birth certificates.

If the father isn't going to object and it's a fortnight in Spain I very much doubt anyone is going to ask or check. Countless married parents will take the children with one parent only abroad every year or the family might be without a father, sperm donor only etc.

hopeforthebestplanfortheworst Mon 24-Nov-14 22:59:27

Wow thanks all, lots of experiences and advice. Thank you.

Sorry it's taken me a while to get back here, lots of other yucky things going on and this week I've been too drained to do anything bar essential chores once the kids in bed.

I contacted CORAM(?) a free legal advice service to do with children. Basically at the moment it is illegal for me to take my kids away but, due to their father not being present for a long period ~4 yrs, I can apply to the courts for a child arrangement order (prev. called residence order) to confirm they live with me and this will allow me to take them abroad for up to 28 days. When applying to court (which I can do myself and represent myself as case should be straight forward apparently) I fill out a form - can find the form ref if anyone else needs it - and pay the court fee of £215. Some ppl can get reduced court costs depending on income etc. Strictly speaking when filling in the form I have to show I've made reasonable attempts to contact him but I will state I have no means of where to start, the courts may or may not look for him depending how much they feel it is of the children's interest. As my application wouldn't be changing anything for them really, more formalising our current set up, it's unlikely they'd put too much resource into finding him. Yay.

This has led me on to considering about their names too. Life would be easier if we all had the same surname and I actually love my name and would love them to have it too, like a proper & more conventional family unit, I'm doing all the hard work and they are MY kids, he has literally turned out to be a sperm donor, the more I ponder this issue the more in love I fall with us all sharing a surname. It can be done on the same form as the CAO above so at no extra cost, so if I'm ever going to do it then this would be the time. However the court would probably view this as more critical to involve him as it IS changing something in their lives (well just the older one he'd have a say with but what I'd do with one I'd do with the other, not having differences between them) so they would make more effort to find him. He tried to hide from CSA but they found him so I have to assume the courts would too if they really wanted to. If he was to object he'd need to attend court & put forward a reason why they should keep him name, which it is unlikely would be backed by court due to a total lack of relationship / contact / identity with him. But it would potentially open a can of worms.

Until I make a decision on changing their surnames, the CAO (and foreign hols) will have to wait. sad

But I am glad to know where I stand.

I am not brave enough to try my luck and take them away with out full rights, the cost of court would be less than the cost of a lost holiday if we weren't allowed to leave the country. I'm the unlucky type who would get stopped and refused!

STIDW Wed 26-Nov-14 00:12:05

The problem with the advice above is the Children Act 1989 prohibits the court from making an order unless it is better to make an order than no order - see s1. Often (but not always) where living arrangements aren't in dispute it is deemed there is no need for a Child Arrangement Order.

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