Travelling abroad with a child of a different surname

An airport

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With the school summer holidays nearly here and many of us on the countdown for some well-deserved time off work basking in the sun – there’s one question we get asked by parents time and time again.

“Can I take my child abroad with me if we have different surnames?!”

If you’re divorced from your child’s other parent, you’ve remarried and taken on a new name, or perhaps your child never took your surname in the first place, such concerns are perfectly understandable.

Tales of parents being accused of kidnapping their own children, families missing flights due to investigations, and the resultant stress have become somewhat familiar. So, how do we address these concerns?

If you’re grappling with such worries, rest assured that you can still travel abroad with your child, even if your surnames differ. However, with a little preparation, you should be able to save yourself a headache whilst at the airport, too. 

How to travel abroad with a child whose surname is different from yours:

Travelling with children is stressful at the best of times, let alone when they don’t share your surname. Fortunately, much of this stress can be avoided by carrying the right documents:

You should take:


  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of your change of name (if applicable) 
  • Adoption papers or a letter from the child welfare agency (if applicable)
  • Both of your passports (we hope this goes without saying!) 

Carrying these documents should help mitigate the concerns of any officials questioning the relationship between you and your child.

Preparing your child for possible questions

Additionally – depending on your child’s age, it may also be helpful to warn them that officials could ask them questions. It’s useful to reassure them that they don’t need to be worried, but they do need to answer clearly and honestly. 

Your child might be asked:

  • What their name is 
  • How old they are
  • What their relationship is to you 

Whilst it may be frustrating to find your relationship with your child questioned while at the airport – it’s crucial to remember these procedures are only designed to protect children from severe threats such as kidnapping and trafficking. 

Do I need permission from the other parent to take my child abroad?

If you’re a single parent or the child’s other parent isn’t travelling with you – it’s also wise to bring a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent. 

This should confirm that they are aware of your travel arrangements and affirm their consent to your plans. 

There are a few factors to consider in such a situation:

Does the other parent have Parental Responsibility (PR)?  If so – then you will need to ask for their written permission.

If the parent doesn’t respond to your requests for consent – you need to be able to show evidence that you have made reasonable efforts to contact them.

If the other party is refusing to let your child travel abroad with you – it is best to discuss this directly with them. If a resolution appears unlikely, you may then want to consider an attempt at mediation. This is a voluntary process whereby a neutral party helps you reach a mutual agreement.

If mediation proves unsuccessful, it might be time to contact a solicitor. They can help negotiate an agreement, potentially including ‘safeguards’. For example: providing flight and accommodation details and facilitating video calls with the child during the holiday.

If all else fails, you could take the formal steps of applying to the courts. The court will always focus on the child’s best interests. However, this can be a lengthy and emotionally charged process. Hence, it’s advisable to exhaust all other avenues before resorting to this step.

DRN Divorce & Family Law Services

So there we have it. Travelling abroad with children of different surnames can be a daunting experience – t with thorough preparation and planning –  it doesn’t need to be.

If you would like more information about holiday arrangements for your children, or if you require any further assistance with Divorce & Family laws – please contact our specialised team of solicitors here.