Children’s passports where parents are separated

There is often some concern about the issue of a child’s passport when the parents are separated.

How to apply for the passport:

The guidance provides that if the application is for a child, and there are any parental responsibility orders or other court orders in place then the orders and any parental responsibility orders or evidence of agreement should accompany the passport application.

Other parent’s permission:

A child under 16 must have permission for a passport application from a person with parental responsibility.

Who has parental responsibility?

The mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth, and can give permission, providing the court has not taken parental responsibility away (eg, an adoption order has been made).

The father may acquire parental responsibility and can give permission if he:

  • was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth
  • was married to the mother at any time after the child’s birth
  • has a parental responsibility order or agreement (which must be sent with the application)
  • has a child arrangements order which grants parental responsibility (this must be sent with the application), or
  • is named on the birth certificate (this must be sent with the application) and the birth was jointly registered on or after1 December 2003 in England and Wales

What if there is a concern about abduction?

This is a very serious situation. A passport order is usually used in a situation where for example the applicant is fearful of an abduction imminently taking place and wishes to prevent it by seizing the travel documents of the child and potential abductor. Passport orders are also commonly used when a child has already been abducted from the jurisdiction and the applicant wishes for travel documents to be seized from the respondent at the point of entry, in the event they subsequently return to the jurisdiction. This means that the applicant will be alerted if the abducting parent and/or child returns to the jurisdiction as they will be stopped as a result of the port alert being in place so that their travel documents are seized.

A passport order must be proportionate and usually made for a defined rather than an indefinite period of time. A passport seizure order has been described as ‘…a potent order, with significant implications, whose use it seems to me should be tightly controlled’.

There is also an inherent jurisdiction to make orders directed to third parties who there is reason to believe may be able to provide information which may lead to the location of a missing child. Therefore a passport order may also be made against an individual who may have information about the whereabouts of the abducting parent and child. However, it should be noted that the existence (beyond a short period) of a passport order that is essentially for the purposes of coercion is wrong in principle and fundamentally objectionable.

Child Arrangement Orders:

If there is a concern about the arrangements for passports such as who should hold them and when each parent is permitted to travel with their children, this can be agreed or Ordered in advance by way of a Child Arrangements Order.

If you have any queries or concerns please do contact one of our family team, whose details are below: | 01543 420011 | 01543 420031

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