If you’re travelling abroad with a child who has a different surname to you, it’s important to carry extra documents that prove your relationship.

Additional checks have been put in place to guard against child abduction. Hundreds of families have already described how they were stopped and questioned when travelling with children who have a different surname.

If you are travelling with a child whose surname is different from yours, it is useful to take steps to prepare for this situation. Mothers are automatically given parental responsibility, but you will still need permission from the other parent or a court before taking your child abroad.

What do I need to do?

You should carry evidence of your relationship with your child, or documents explaining your reason for travel. This isn’t compulsory, but it can help avoid delays.

Suitable evidence includes:

  • A copy of a birth or adoption certificate that shows your relationship to your child
  • A divorce or marriage certificate that shows your relationship to the other parent
  • A letter from the child’s other parent, with contact details, giving consent for the child to travel with you. Grandparents and other relatives should obtain a letter that includes the details of both parents, even if they have the same surname.

Letter of consent

In most cases, a letter of consent will be sufficient proof that you’ve got permission to take a child abroad. Be aware that it does not guarantee that children will be able to travel problem-free.  Every country has its own requirements, so check with the relevant embassy/embassies for the destination/s you will be travelling to or through.

Here is a Home Office template for a letter of consent. This should be signed by a witness over 18 years old or by a notary public (recommended). More than one child can be included on the same letter.

Here is a list of foreign embassies in the UK where you check each country’s specific requirements for travel.

What if I can’t contact the other parent?

If you share parental responsibility with an absent parent who cannot be contacted, you will need to go to a court to obtain permission to travel. You can find more information about this on the Home Office website.
If the absent parent has passed away, you may find it helpful to take their death certificate with you.