Travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname
It’s peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.
Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.
Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take action to avoid unnecessary stress.
What is in a surname?
Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do, and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.
The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?
Documents you may need
Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
Your child’s Birth Certificate:
This document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
Proof of your change of name:
This could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.
Prepare your children
You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes. When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was. It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.
Consent to travel
If you are not travelling with your child’s other parent, I would always ensure that you can prove you have their consent to your taking the child abroad.
If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days.
However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.
I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays!