The school summer holidays are a special time of the year for children to spend quality time with their parents, especially where their parents are separated and term time contact may be limited. Many parents may wish to take this opportunity to take the children abroad on holiday.
However, for some families, the prospect of a parent taking the children abroad on holiday may cause great anxiety for the other parent.
In particular, there may be circumstances where there is a real and imminent risk that the parent taking the children abroad may not return with the children. This may be caused where a parent has threatened not to return with the children or where the parent is known to have family ties, a new partner or other connections with the country they intend to visit, paired with the fact that they may have discussed or are otherwise suspected to want to relocate to that country permanently.
These circumstances are rare, but a parent in this difficult position may fear that the other parent asking to take the children abroad for a summer holiday may be doing so as a disguise and in reality, their real intention may be to stay in that country permanently.
If there is a real and imminent risk then urgent advice is essential to determine the right next best step. An urgent application to the Court may be required. Each case will turn on its facts, but the Court has the ability to make specific urgent court orders, if there is deemed to be a real live risk.
If a parent takes the children abroad and does not return by the date which was agreed between the parties or ordered by the Court, this could potentially constitute a ‘wrongful retention’ and steps will need to be taken quickly to seek to return the child to the country. This is a specialist area of international children law, and the law depends on which country a child has been taken to. The stark reality is that these court proceedings can be complex, highly stressful and emotionally draining.
If a parent has asked you to consider their request to take the children on a summer holiday abroad and you are concerned that they will not return with the children, it is imperative that you seek expert legal advice at an early stage and before agreeing to such a holiday. Where there are genuine grounds for concern about a wrongful retention, steps can be put in place to ensure that the other parent is not able to take the children abroad. Urgent action is often required, so you should seek advice at the earliest opportunity, before the actual date of the planned holiday as opposed to when the suspected abduction becomes a reality.