Permission to take a child abroad when they don’t share your surname

Cygnet had spent the day with his father and I was due to collect him from his father’s house at 6pm.  I arrived at 6pm on the dot and I knocked on the door.  There was no answer.  I knocked again. Still no answer. 

I called his mobile phone.  There was no answer.  I called again.  Still no answer.  I called a third time and left a message. 

I was starting to panic.  I was starting to think that he had taken Cygnet away from me.  In my irrational (and this was irrational) moments of panic, I contemplated the possibility that I might never see my son again. 

Two minutes later they walked round the corner.  Cygnet was on his father’s shoulders.  They’d been at a party.

Order was restored and I was able to breathe again. 

permission to take a child abroad

It has been a long time since I’ve had those horrible thoughts.  In the early days after our separation, Cygnet’s father hated and resented me so much for leaving him that I believed that he might try to take Cygnet away forever. 

More recently, our childcare arrangements are just about working and apart from the inevitable co-parenting obstacle, things have been going okay. There is no logical and rational reason for me to fear that my ex might take my son away. 

Cygnet doesn’t share my surname.  He has the same surname as his father.  My ex and I were never married, but we were engaged to be married when Cygnet was born and I was expecting to adopt my ex’s surname when we wed.  For this reason, we gave Cygnet his father’s surname.

According to government guidelines you need permission to take a child abroad from everyone who has parental responsibility.  Cygnet’s father is named on Cygnet’s birth certificate and he therefore has parental responsibility.  This permission really needs to take the form of a signed letter to be shown at the border.

permission to take a child abroad

Cygnet’s father needs my permission to take Cygnet abroad, and I need his.  All is fair.

The thing is, because Cygnet shares his father’s surname, I don’t think that anyone would question Cygnet’s father.  No-one will ask to see the signed letter of permission that I will give Cygnet’s father for their holiday this summer. 

But because Cygnet and I don’t share a surname, they may well ask to see identification to prove that I am Cygnet’s mother and that I have permission to take Cygnet abroad.  

The requirement to get permission to take a child abroad is a good thing.  The irrational panic that I endured for about three minutes was enough to send me into a little frenzy of anxiety.  I cannot imagine how horrific and traumatic it must be for any parent whose child is abducted. 

I am not worried about Cygnet’s father taking Cygnet away without my permission, but I do wish that Cygnet’s father was as likely as me to be asked to prove that he has permission. 

I guess it is just one of those things, along with a host of other things,  that I will just have to get over. 

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  1. May 26, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    Whilst I can see the reason behind this requirement, it makes life hard. And I guess if someone really wanted to take a child out of the country without permission, they’d find a way round this law.
    Glad that Cygnet turned up with his father

    • thesingleswan
      May 26, 2017 / 9:41 pm

      Hi Suzie,

      Yes you are right. If someone really did want to take a child out of the country they would easily find a way. Pen x

  2. May 27, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    I totally understand why they do this, but I agree that whether or not they have the same name his father should have to present his letter also. Thanks so much for sharing this thought provoking post with #Blogstravaganza xx
    The Tale of Mummyhood recently posted…#Blogstravaganza #21My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 27, 2017 / 8:58 pm

      My pleasure. Thanks for hosting #blogstravaganza. Pen x

  3. May 27, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    I’d never thought about this before. That’s a tricky one! Thank you for sharing. #ThatFridayLinky

    • thesingleswan
      May 27, 2017 / 8:58 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  4. May 27, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    Tricky situation. I have fears that Matthew and Anya’s dad will do something silly one day. They have my surname as I never trusted him to stay with us (despite me telling him to leave if that’s what he wanted, he waited until they loved him before walking out and not seeing them again 🙁 ) #blogstravaganza
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    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2017 / 10:15 pm

      Oh gosh. this must be incredibly tough. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2017 / 10:14 pm

      Indeed. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2017 / 10:05 pm

      thanks Pen x

  5. May 28, 2017 / 8:09 pm

    Didn’t realise you had to do this! I suppose it’s good for keeping kids safe, but will make life difficult for some parents! #Blogstravaganza

    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2017 / 10:05 pm

      Yep, it does indeed. It is okay when relations with the ex are on an even keel. Pen x

  6. May 28, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    Awwww that would break my heart in one sense. Having to prove your is mum and legally allowed to take him places must be emotionally tough on you. As you say. It’s one of those things you just have to learn to live with but it must be hard.


    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2017 / 10:04 pm

      Hi Cassie, thanks again for a lovely comment. Pen x

  7. May 28, 2017 / 10:26 pm

    Okay, I thought this was going to be about school permissions… I did not realise this was a thing.
    I am married and share my husbands surname (as do our children) so I can’t see this being an issue for me, however I can see why it would be a nuisance and a concern.
    For a child who has been abducted by a stranger this could prove invaluable.
    For a parent whose child has been taken out of the country without their permission by the other parent this could also prove invaluable, it seems unfair that sharing a surname is enough. It should be one rule: Required for all or not at all. I think I prefer the former, although a ball ache it could save a lot of heartache/ stress and even lives.
    Glad all was well.
    keepmum recently posted…Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: ReviewMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:32 pm


      I think I prefer the former too. We both done letters recently and it is not much of a ball ache. Pen x

  8. May 30, 2017 / 4:48 am

    There are many rules that just aren’t fair – that one parent should have greater right to a child simply because of sharing the surname doesn’t seem right. But I like the fact that both of you have to give a letter for the other one to take the child out of the country. That sounds good enough.
    I do see your panic on not finding your son. That must be a terrible fear. Glad it’s behind you. #mg
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    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:27 pm

      Sorry, Cygnet isn’t at school yet, so I am not well placed to write a post about permission from school to take my son on holiday. I have those delights to come. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  9. May 30, 2017 / 3:39 pm

    It is a tricky one, and I totally understand your frustration at the ‘double standard’ here. I was once asked at airport security in France (where I’m from) whether my children were mine, as my pre-marriage passport didn’t show my married name, and the address was also different from my kids’. I felt so powerless, angry even at the customs officer, for being such a stickler. As if I was going to carry around countless documents just in case!
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    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:24 pm

      Hi Annette,

      thanks for your comment. It is tough isn’t it. It’s frustrating, but they are just doing their jobs. That’s what I tell myself when I am stopped. Pen x

  10. May 30, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Working for a family law firm, I come across this all the time. It seems unfair on first thoughts but looking deeper, it makes sense really. If you have a different surname, you could be anyone. #DreamTeam
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    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:19 pm

      Very true. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  11. June 1, 2017 / 8:57 am

    I had no idea that this was a rule (we’ve never taken our kids abroad). It makes sense, I guess. I can totally imagine that moment of panic when your brain starts telling you that the worst has happened! Eeek! But I’m glad that they showed up #brillblogposts
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    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      Thanks Lucy. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 8:00 pm

      Yes Debbie, you certainly have a point. This is very true. Pen x

  12. June 3, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    I always remember my Mom having to do this for us when we went away. However she had a double barrelled surname, my dads surname and her new husbands surname. I never quite understood why she did this, but it helped with border control!
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    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 7:59 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  13. June 5, 2017 / 10:28 am

    It is scary when you see shows on television where dad’s have taken their children out of the country and away from their mother, I can understand that moment of panic! #mg
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  14. June 5, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    I can totally understand and respect the reasoning behind this and it makes me feel safer to know that these checks are in place, but I find it concerning that if these processes are in place, they can be neglected just because a child carries the same surname as the adult they travel with. For me it should be a blanket rule for all – regardless of surname. It’s all about protecting our little ones isn’t it? But I can understand and relate to how it must make you feel to be asked just based on a different name. Thanks for linking with #DreamTeam Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 5, 2017 / 8:10 pm


      Yes a blanket rule is best. Having said that, I very recently checked on to an Easyjet flight with Cygnet. We both have different surnames. I showed both of our passports and was ready to show my letter of permission and Cygnet’s birth certificate, but no one asked…

    • thesingleswan
      June 5, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      Hi Amy,

      thanks for your comment. I guess it was a bit like that, although I should know by now that cygnet is actually quite safe with his dad and I do actually trust him not to abduct him. His timekeeping leaves a little to be desired, but never mind. Pen x

  15. June 8, 2017 / 3:16 pm

    I always wonder about this sort of thing. I’m taking my nephew to America so I have to have both his parents sign a letter. I think kids should take the mothers name.
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    • thesingleswan
      June 10, 2017 / 7:47 pm

      I agree with you. It is the female body that nourishes the body within it for near on 10 months so it would make a lot more sense for a child to take its mother’s name. Society isn’t quite ready for this though. Pen x

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