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Travelling with children with a different surname

Janine Hutson

Janine Hutson, a solicitor in Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team, offers guidance for parents and relatives travelling with children who have a different surname.

Travelling as a family with children is usually a fairly simple process.

However, this can become more complicated if parents, or other family members, are travelling with children who do not share their surname.

It is important for parents travelling with children who do not share their surname to be aware they could be turned away at airport check-in or immigration control, or, in extreme circumstances, be suspected of child abduction if they cannot prove to be related to the children.

Border controls are a reassuring way to protect against child abduction and trafficking and can be particularly strict and thorough. Reducing the risk of disruption to travel can be avoided simply by ensuring the you carry the necessary documentation.

To avoid these issues when traveling with children with a different surname, make sure to carry the following documentation with you while travelling:

Printed copies of birth certificates for both parents and children. Passports, including any additional passports for parents and children with dual nationalities. For separated or divorced parents, the consent letter from the child’s other parent and (if applicable) divorce documentation such as your decree absolute. For married couples if the wife has maintained her maiden name, their marriage certificate. If the parent with the same surname as the child has passed away, you may need to carry a copy of their death certificate.

If you have any concerns as to whether you will be allowed to enter or leave a specific country with children who have a different surname, check with your airline first. Most airlines have information on their website or links to further information as they deal with this issue regularly and may also have their own specific requirements.

In the case of separated parents, if you do not have a court order specifying that your child lives with you, then it will be necessary to obtain the consent of the other parent in writing before travelling and carry this letter with you.

If this is your situation read our post for further information: Do I need permission to take our child on holiday after a separation?

It is also strongly recommended to check with your embassy too. Restrictions or allowances that apply for British families travelling with children may not apply for other nationalities, regardless of your intended destination.