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Can I travel to amber list countries with my children?

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Tips and family law insights for travel overseas in the current times.

After what has been an extremely challenging and unprecedented 18 months, it’s completely understandable that many people are keen to travel abroad and go on holiday.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, from limitations placed on our day to day activities, to constraints on our freedoms and ability to travel, both in the UK and abroad. These restrictions have meant that, for over a year, many people have not been able to visit their home countries, and children have been prevented from seeing some of their family.

As the countdown to the summer holidays begins, together with the recent delays in the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, questions on overseas travel is becoming increasing noticeable.

Hannah McCrindle, divorce and family associate at Stewarts, discusses the current situation on overseas travel for separated couples with children, provides family law insights and tips on obtaining consent for travel overseas.

Government guidance

The current government guidance states that only essential travel is allowed to amber list countries.

While it’s possible to visit the limited green list countries with very few restrictions, travelling to an amber list country means the following must be adhered to:

Before you travel to England, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test
  • Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 travel test – for after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form

On arrival in England, you must:

  • Quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8
  • You may only be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

The above requirements are applicable whether or not you’ve been fully vaccinated.

The standard position on overseas travel

If you’re a parent looking to take your child abroad, either permanently or for a holiday, consent must be granted from everyone with parental responsibility, usually including the other parent.  However, when one parent has the benefit of a Live With Order, that parent can remove the child from the jurisdiction for up to one month without the consent of anyone else holding parental responsibility. For any travel over one month, consent from all parties is required.

This is the position in both current COVID and non-COVID times.


Issues from a family law perspective

When it comes to current amber travel restrictions, many separated parents face difficult decisions as, in the majority of situations, both parents have to give their consent for a child to be taken abroad.

COVID-19 have been the source of increased stress and anxiety for many people, and there are many reasons why a parent may feel uncomfortable with their child travelling to an amber listed country, and may not wish to provide consent including:

  • Concern about the impact on their child’s health
  • Feeling uncomfortable that their child is travelling for a non-essential reason
  • Worrying about going against government advice regarding amber list travel
  • The potential disruption on the child’s education when quarantining on return
  • The impact of quarantining on any planned contact between the children and the non-travelling parent

Although each of these concerns are valid, a balance needs to be struck when, for example, one parent is desperate for their children to visit relatives in their home country. This may mean that one parent is more willing to ‘risk’ visiting an amber listed country, complicating any co-parenting relationship during an already challenging time.

Obtaining consent

To reduce any issues and concerns, and to avoid any last-minute court applications, it’s best to keep the lines of communication open with the other parents, and to ensure written consent is obtained during planning, and before any travel is booked.

These recommendations could help either parent obtain consent for travel to an amber listed county whilst restrictions are still in place:

  • Be honest about where you plan to travel, who you plan to see, and where you will stay.
  • Discuss how you plan to keep your children safe, helping to alleviate any fears.
  • As consent can be withdrawn, have an open discussion about any concerns to minimise the chances of this happening.
  • Discuss quarantine restrictions and any affects it may have on upcoming contact between your co-parent, or school, and child, and agree on how any missed time can be made up.

Working together to agree on a plan and way to move forward is key to ensure the best interests of the children are met during these unprecedented times.

This piece was written by Hannah McCrindle, divorce and family associate at Stewarts, the UK’s leading litigation-only law firm.

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