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Single parent travel

24 replies

LittleMissOverthinker · 08/02/2022 19:37

Has anyone got first hand experience of travelling abroad as a single parent?
My issue is I’m wanting to take my 2 children abroad. I have a court order for my youngest (so I can take him away without other parents permission) however I don’t have one for my eldest. I can’t gain written permission from eldest son’s father as they haven’t had contact in over 2 years. Both children have valid passports and both have my surname. Would I be restricted from travelling? I’ve read so many conflicting accounts online, I’d just like to know from single parents of their personal experiences. Thanks x

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YerAWizardHarry · 08/02/2022 19:38

I’ve travelled all over the world with my DS who has a different surname to me and literally never been asked to prove he’s “mine” or if I have permission from his father

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RedCandyApple · 08/02/2022 19:53

Not everyone is stopped no but it’s the risk you take. I have known of people to be stopped.

Single parent travel
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jocktamsonsbairn · 08/02/2022 21:56

I've always taken my dc away with no issues at all despite us eventually having different names on our passports when I changed back to my maiden name. Dd got stopped coming back from Spain once but she told them I was her mum and she didn't remember her dad and they were fine.
Enjoy your holiday!

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Notnastypasty · 08/02/2022 23:59

I’ve never been asked apart from once coming back from Dubai - they asked my daughter where her dad was. If they don’t have contact then you can’t ask anyway. I really wouldn’t worry about it.

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KeepingOnKeepingUp · 09/02/2022 00:30

I've been stopped, once when leaving the country and once when re-entering, which was kind of odd. That's out of around 20 or so trips I've taken with them.

I now take a letter from their dad with me, which doesn't help you. First time DS had a huge tantrum because he was worried he'd be taken away from me, second time he looked blank when they asked if I was his mother and refused to answer. Unhelpful, on both counts.

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pico1 · 09/02/2022 08:13

Tbh, having the child’s passport implies consent to take the child out of the country. I’d carry a copy of their birth certs so at least you have proof you’re their parent.

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SapereAude · 09/02/2022 09:14

You need a consent letter unless you have a court order giving you sole, exclusive parental responsibility
No, you may never be asked to show it. Yes, you will be stopped from travelling if you are asked and don't have it.
Some countries ask for the consent letter on entry.
The UK tends not to ask on exit (because there's no actual border control on exit- you've shown your ppt to the airline, not an immigration official) but is more likely to ask on entry (so on the way back) It has nothing to do with different surnames, though obviously that could raise queries. It's to stop cross border child abduction- which is usually done by a parent in a nasty separation/custody wrangle. One of the first questions would be immigration staff are asked at training (and before, I was asked at interview) is 'what do you do if you see a lone adult travelling with a minor?' The answer being, check that the adult has permission to do so.
If a grandparent takes a child abroad- they need permission. Etc etc.
It's all on the gov website. You can download a template.
I fly (in normal times) about 6 times a year. I'm asked for the consent letter maybe about a third of those times.
The border control officer who starts up a conversation with your child about where they are going and if they are going on holiday is carrying out a tacit check.

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KeepingOnKeepingUp · 09/02/2022 11:59

Yes, agree that when travelling with friends, my children were often the recipients of the friendly chat from an official ("where've you been, did you have a nice time, who's with you") than those with both parents in tow at immigration control. It was a bit of a struggle initially as DS hated talking to strangers in any context, so we did a lot of practicing so that he wasn't going to raise any concerns. Until they got old enough that it wasn't an issue, I had a whole wallet full of papers - their birth certificates, a letter from their dad, a copy of his passport, etc.

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Gardenista · 09/02/2022 15:52

I’ve travelled to many European countries with my daughter who has my surname without issue apart from the Netherlands, who told me I need written permission from the child’s father. They are very strict in potential child abductions.

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LittleMissOverthinker · 11/02/2022 21:30

Thank you all for your answers Smile

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Aroundtheworldin80moves · 11/02/2022 21:36

I've been questioned once travelling without their father (married but I used to bring them back to the UK alone when living abroad). At Gatwick. That was one in 20 trips.

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Imsittinginthekitchensink · 11/02/2022 21:42

My xh won't give permission, so I just travelled anyway. The only time we were ever stopped was when DD was about 10/11 and had a massive strop at Heathrow so I was doing the hissed bollocking thing. A security guard came over and took us to one side to ask her who I was, where we had been etc. It was not our finest moment but he was very nice about it!

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Ohhelpicantthinkofaname · 11/02/2022 21:51

Not a single parent, but have taken my dds abroad alone and they have a different surname to me. No one asked about it at all.

My friend and her dd travelled with us. She even managed to book her dds flight in a different name to her passport and had to change it at the airport, different name to hers. Still no one asked.

There’s no absolute guarantee, but chances are you’ll be fine.

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Ohhelpicantthinkofaname · 11/02/2022 21:54

Obviously your likelihood of being asked depends on where you’re travelling to.

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LittleMissOverthinker · 11/02/2022 22:02

Looking at Canary Islands so at least it’s still in the EU

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redredredredlorry · 11/02/2022 22:24

What happens for children who's parent has died? Do people carry death certificates?
I'm a child of divorce where, for a time, my parents lived in separate countries and I traveled with each of them separately without any questions.
I never even knew this was a thing till I read the many threads on here about it, and when I asked my parents, neither of them knew anything either.
For reference, these trips would have happened many times a year between 2002 and 2013, so I don't know if it's changed massively since then.

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SapereAude · 12/02/2022 06:30

@redredredredlorry

What happens for children who's parent has died? Do people carry death certificates?
I'm a child of divorce where, for a time, my parents lived in separate countries and I traveled with each of them separately without any questions.
I never even knew this was a thing till I read the many threads on here about it, and when I asked my parents, neither of them knew anything either.
For reference, these trips would have happened many times a year between 2002 and 2013, so I don't know if it's changed massively since then.

If the other parent has died, then usually it would suffice to say that if asked. Some countries do require the actual documentation.

It's not a new thing, just maybe more widespread as individual countries' legislation. And many countries have much more coherent legislation about it- not sure about now, but some years ago to get into Canada as a lone parent your consent letter needed to be witnessed by a notary for example.

I also travelled to Italy with my daughter who was 12 at the time, and two fourteen year old friends- I didn't need the consent letter for the friends, even though they weren't my children, because at 14, for Italy, at that time, there was no requirement for consent, but I did need it for my own daughter.

The confusing information about it really stems from it not being a blanket ruling- that only some lone adults travelling with minors will be asked- leading to people saying "been travelling for years, never been stopped" which won't be helpful if the poster asking the question then gets turned away at the gate. (doesn't usually happen, as the non travelling parent can in extremis be contacted on the spot) and also because everyone (including the govt website and Mumsnet- who have a page somewhere about this) underline the different surname thing. It is NOTHING to do with different surnames- it's simply lone adults travelling with minors. I wrote to MNHQ about this, as their info at the time implied you'd only be stopped if your surname was different- not the case.

Lone males travelling alone with a child will be stopped and asked more than females.

If, for whatever reason, the other parent refuses consent, then rather than risk being turned away, it would be better to get a solicitor's endorsement confirming that the other parent has refused.
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ivykaty44 · 12/02/2022 06:37

I was asked once by check in staff as I travelled with just a small handbag and backpack ( all my luggage was already at the destination as it had gone by vehicle) I guess it looked suspicious as I was traveling so lightly packed they may have thought I was fleeing

They checked they were my children but never tasked about the father

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CardiganAddict · 12/02/2022 06:41

Oh my goodness everyone - thank you OP for asking this and thank you others for responding.
I have never taken my daughter abroad as I read the guidance online and was worried about it!
Father is not in touch at all and we have different surnames.

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Igmum · 12/02/2022 07:07

Like many here, we've travelled all over and never been asked (victims of DV so couldn't have got a letter anyway). I didn't even know this was a thing!

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LittleMissOverthinker · 12/02/2022 09:58

@Igmum

Like many here, we've travelled all over and never been asked (victims of DV so couldn't have got a letter anyway). I didn't even know this was a thing!

DV is why I have a court order for my youngest, eldest’s dad is just absent
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BigmouseLittleHouse · 13/02/2022 13:42

I’ve been asked and had birth certificates of my DC checked 3 times when travelling all on rentry to the U.K.. We have different names - my ex did do a letter but tbh not sure what the point is because could even forged!

The last time the guy did say as the kids get older they tend just to ask the DC.

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2anddone · 13/02/2022 18:07

Travelled with my dc multiple times since separating. Never been asked and never had a letter. The only time anything was said was on the way back from Paris when the person on passport control asked my dd who are you travelling with to which dd answered my mum and my brother and they waved us through.

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