Can my children go on holiday with their grandparents if my ex does not consent?

Taking children on holiday can often be more challenging between separated parents, but can grandparents take their grandchildren on holiday, and how easy is it in a separated family? Here, Michael Compston looks at court orders, parental responsibility, and offers advice to grandparents looking to plan a holiday.

Firstly, who can take children on holiday? This blog assumes that you and your ex- have separated and no longer live together, but that there is no court order in place; if you do have a court order, you should refer to the warning notices within that order.

Only those individuals with parental responsibility have the capacity to make decisions on who may take children out of the country on foreign holidays. Parents acquire parental responsibility most typically at birth; the mother will acquire it by virtue of being the child’s mother, and the Father will acquire parental responsibility if he is married to the Mother at the time the child’s birth or he is named on the child’s birth certificate as the Father. Similar provisions apply for same-sex couples.

With no court order in place, permission of those with parental responsibility is required before taking children on a foreign holiday. This is the case regardless of who the child lives with. Consent should not be unreasonably withheld – why would a parent not want their child to experience a foreign holiday – but if the holiday is at risk of putting a child in danger, or there are concerns about the children not returning, then consent may be withheld. Consent is often withheld because the ex- is worried about their routine time with the child being interrupted. It may be helpful to consider how any lost time could be made up, if consent is being withheld, as a means to broker an agreement.

Grandparents typically don’t have parental responsibility for children – there are exceptions to this, of course, but we are looking at the general position here. Those with parental responsibility are free to delegate childcare to who they consider appropriate to provide such childcare. We see this when parents work longer hours than children are at school or nursery and grandma or grandad need to collect the children and provide childcare for a couple of hours. We don’t often think about the action of delegating that responsibility as it is simply what many working families do as part and parcel of 21st century life; everybody pitches in for the childcare, especially when both parents work full-time, or close to full-time jobs.

It is advisable for grandparents to plan their holidays well in advance and they must ensure that they have permission of all individuals with parental responsibility. Written consent is not strictly a legal requirement but it would be a very good idea to have something from everyone who has parental responsibility, in writing, that can be shown to any customs officials querying the legal right to take the children on holiday. This is particularly important when the children have a different surname to the grandparents.

If consent is withheld from any individual with parental responsibility, then the grandparents can apply to court for a Specific Issue Order. They will need permission to make such an application, granted by the court, but getting permission to make the application is usually a formality – this is not the same as permission being given to take the children on holiday. The court will list the matter for a Final Hearing where the parties – grandparents and those with parental responsibility – will give evidence in front of a Judge and have the opportunity to cross-examine (ask questions) of the other parties before the Judge makes a final decision.

The Judge will consider first and foremost what is in the child’s best interests. Judges will encourage the parties to come to an agreement but, if no agreement is reached, then they will decide what is in the child’s best interests and make an order accordingly.


Bass Warehouse
4 Castle Street
M3 4LZ


If your enquiry is urgent please call

+44 (0)333 202 6433