Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (215)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

347 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received reports of cases in which, following separation, one parent may withhold a child’s passport thus preventing the other parent from taking the child on holiday abroad with regard to the fact that children can no longer be included on a parent’s passport; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that it may not be feasible for aggrieved parents to pursue this matter repeatedly though legal channels; if he has proposals to remedy such situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25098/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

With effect from 1 October last, the passport office ceased the practice of allowing children to be included on their parents' passports. Henceforth, all children, regardless of age, must obtain an individual passport in their own name for travel abroad. This change was designed to improve the security of international travel for children and brings us into line with international best practice in this regard.

The passport office has not received any reports that the new regulation will pose difficulties for separated parents and it does not change the fundamental position that a child under 16 years of age born within marriage must have the consent of both parents before they can travel abroad, unless the courts decide otherwise. In cases where parents are separated, and one of them refuses to give their consent to the provision of passport facilities to the child, such passport facilities will not issue unless a court has made an order, under section 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, dispensing with the consent of the parent who so refuses consent.

If a parent of a child to whom a passport has been issued has concerns that their separated spouse may seek to take the child out of the country against their wishes, it is open to them to apply to the courts for an order requiring that the child's passport be held by the court and not released to the other parent without the first parent's agreement. This possibility applies irrespective of whether the child has a passport in his or her own name or is included on the passports of one or both parents.