As summer approaches many of us are looking forward to some time away in the sun. However, when you have a different surname to that of your child you may find yourself having to deal with more stress than you bargained for.
Over the last few years hundreds of thousands of women have been stopped at UK border control and asked to prove their relationship with their child because they have a different surname.
This is a problem that affects all sorts of women; women like me, divorced from my son’s father and remarried with a different surname to that of my son, cohabiting families and married women who have chosen to keep their maiden name whilst their children have taken their father’s surname.
The checks are in place to prevent children being kidnapped but have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many women and their children. Unfortunately the child calling you Mummy in front of the official is not going to be enough!
So what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly? Much depends on your particular circumstances but the documents that will help prove your relationship are:
• Your child’s birth certificate – this document gives the name of the child, date and place of birth which will match the details in their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of the birth. If your name hasn’t changed and you are travelling with your child’s father this may be all you need. But what if your surname has changed since the child’s birth?
• Proof of your change of name – this may mean your marriage certificate or a change of name deed.
If you are not travelling with the child’s father then I would always ensure you can prove you have the father’s consent to you taking the child abroad.
If there is a Child Arrangements Court Order which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to get the other parent’s consent to the trip if it is more than 28 days long. However, in every other case (the majority) you have to have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility. If you don’t have this consent or a Court Order, you are committing child abduction.
I recommend asking the child’s other parent to sign a consent form before travel. Ensure the form gives full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. Make sure the other parent signs the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parent’s passport to the consent form.
There have been calls to change children’s passports so they bear both parents’ names, avoiding the need to prove parentage. Sadly these changes are not on the horizon. In the meantime, I will ensure I have space in my luggage allowance to pack the multitude of documents I need to have a stress free holiday!