As a solicitor, a colleague had the most embarrassing situation last summer at Passport Control in Manchester airport.
Like many parents, she does not share the same surname as her child. Like many single mums, she went on holiday without the child’s father (and the same can be said for single dads too).
This time, bizarrely on returning into the UK, the slightly grumpy Passport Control officer demanded to see the child’s birth certificate. Of course, she did not have it; just the passport. He then asked for her to provide a letter or some other form of written proof that her child’s dad had agreed for her to take him on holiday out of the UK. Again she did not have it. He pointed out that they did not have the same surnames so how did he know she was the child’s parent?
Her and her child were thankfully allowed to enter the UK, with a gruff “make sure you have it next time” response from the Passport Control Officer.
But of course, it got me thinking. The Passport Control officer is right, legally.
Both the child’s father and my colleague are named on the child’s birth certificate so they both have Parental Responsibility. Now that they have separated, she should get written approval from him that he agrees or consents for her to take the child abroad. Without it, the Border Control / Passport Control could rightly query if she had abducted the child and refused her entry. By taking a copy of his birth certificate, she can show that she is indeed his mother and confirm her name to them.
A child arrangements order or special guardianship order would also help resolve this issue.
This same scenario would occur for grandparents, special guardians, foster carers etc.
So this summer, as you tick off your list – sun tan cream, euros, sun glasses, passport, tickets make sure you include a copy of your child’s birth certificate, a copy of any court orders you have and a letter from the other parents giving permission for you to go on holiday. It may just save you from being grilled by a grumpy Passport Officer!
If you need legal advice in relation to children matters, or indeed in relation to any aspect of family law, please contact us to speak to one of our family law solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or complete an online contact form.