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When a passport just isn’t enough – travelling abroad with children

Sep 24, 2017   ·   3 minute read

A piece by Simon Calder in the Independent caught my eye this week.

The Jardine family, mum, dad and children were all at Manchester airport on a second planned trip to South Africa only to be told that their young daughter couldn’t board the plane .Whilst the family had realised that they needed to bring her birth certificate to the airport they had only taken the short style certificate with them, without parent details on it. The rules had changed from when the family had first taken their children on holiday to South Africa in 2015 .The family were caught out by the rule change at a cost of £4,000 for new flights etc.

The authorities in South Africa impose very strict rules on the documentation needed to travel to the country with children .The regulations are designed to stop child abduction and trafficking. The rules are more complex if you are a parent travelling abroad on your own with a child. They are rigorously policed by the airlines to avoid them being fined by the authorities for letting families board without the correct paperwork.

The article in the Independent reminded me of the time I tried to help a dad take his daughter on holiday to South Africa. He had arrived at the check in desk without appreciating that as he was flying to South Africa on his own with his daughter he would need a legal affidavit swearing as well as extra paperwork. I happened to be at the next check in desk and offered to help with the legal bits and his wife rushed down with extra documents to try and make sure that her daughter could go on the planned trip. Sadly all our efforts didn’t work out as the family only had their daughter’s short style birth certificate.

As a solicitor working with parents worried about potential child abduction and trying to recover abducted children from abroad the approach taken by the South African authorities is in many ways very welcome. I do however share the Jardine family frustration that the rules aren’t more widely known and, as a children solicitor, that each country has different rules about what paperwork is needed to travel with a child either as a family or with a single parent or grandparent or nanny. The difference in regulations between countries and whether both parents are travelling together or not can catch out the unwary parent and ruin a planned trip.

If an affidavit is needed so a child can go abroad with a parent then it is vital that there is enough time for all the paperwork to be obtained before the affidavit is sworn.

For advice on any aspect of children law please call me on 01625 728012 or send me an e-mail