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Navigating the school holidays for separated parents.

Navigating the school holidays for separated parents.

January is finally over and blink, before we know it, it will be February half term.

With this in mind Emma Piff, Head of the Family team at Lawson-West Solicitors has put together some hints and tips to help individuals navigate the school holidays as a separated parent.

As the school holidays approach many separated couples will have lots of questions surrounding childcare and their ability to take their children away during the holidays. It is good to start thinking about all of this in advance because you will need to balance your wishes for the holidays with those of your former partner. You may both want to take the children away during the same break and will need to be able to make appropriate provisions for the school holiday days neither of you are able to cover. Whilst every situation is different, the better prepared you are for these events, the better.

Get organised and make note of school holiday dates

Make sure you make note of your children’s school holiday dates as soon as they are announced. Talk to your ex partner about when you wish to take the children away to ensure you aren't making plans for the same dates and certainly don't book anything until you have passed it by your ex partner. With 13 weeks to play with, you should be able to find separate times that work for both parties and share the childcare fairly. 

Plan your holidays in advance

It pays to think ahead about the school holidays. Children typically have 13 weeks off of school throughout the year. It’s an issue for every working family, but can be harder to manage for separated parents. You can be as organised as you like, but if the organisation is left until the last minute, the chances are your plans may fall apart and won't fit with your ex partner's plans.

Think about the finances of the holiday season

Holidays tend to bring with them additional financial responsibilities– costs of additional childcare being a major consideration plus more day trips and entertainment to budget for.

Be upfront and honest about your holiday plans with the children

Just as you might have concerns about your ex taking your children away, your ex might feel the same about your plans. If you are upfront about where you are going and what you are planning to do, you may be able to alleviate these concerns and make the process of agreeing holiday arrangements easier. Sharing details of your trip such as contact details, location and intinerary can help everyone involved feel more at ease.

Offer reassurance and share your intentions if you're planning to go abroad with the children

In some situations, even a short holiday abroad may arouse anxiety and suspicion. For example, if your former partner has family living in a different country and there is any suggestion that they are not being upfront about the length of the holiday or their intentions in respect of returning, you would be right to seek further assurances. Equally, if you are the one with family living abroad, you should seek to reassure the other parent that you do intend to return with the children.

Agree when you can contact the children whilst they are on holiday

If your children are going to be away with your ex partner for 1 or 2 weeks, it’s natural that you will miss them and want to contact them. On the other hand, the other parent needs and deserves quality time with the children too. If you call frequently and can’t get hold of your children, this may increase your anxiety unnecessarily. If you interrupt the holiday too often though you may make the other parent resentful, and this could upset your children. Agreeing specific days and times to telephone or email your children whilst they are away is a good way to manage this. It is less of an issue with older children who have their own independence – but be aware that constant texts or calls may still be disruptive to their holiday.

Communicate and discuss your holiday plans

If you can communicate and discuss plans, you are more likely to reach an agreement over holiday arrangements. There may need to be some compromises on both sides, but if you can reach an agreement relatively amicably, you are far more likely to enjoy the holidays and extended time with the children.

Enjoy the holidays with or without the children

With or without the children around – your new world post-divorce may not always be easy but holidays give you the opportunity to spend more time with your children – and also potentially a longer period without them. It is inevitable that you will miss them – but it can also give you an opportunity to focus on yourself for a time, leaving you refreshed for their return.

The legal stance with regards to holidays for separated parents

As with every aspect of a relationship breakdown, the more you can agree with your former partner in respect of school holidays, the easier life will be for everybody concerned. However, if you really can’t come to a consensus, it is possible to seek a specific issue order through the courts to deal with the problems the holidays present.

There is nothing preventing a parent from taking their child on holiday within England and Wales without the permission of the other parent given they have parental responsibility and there is not a court order preventing them from doing so. However, if  there is a Child Arrangements Order in place for the other parent to have contact, then this must be complied with. Therefore, if the other parent is to have contact during the time that you are on your holiday then you must make your child available for that contact unless an alternative agreement can be reached.

If you are planning to take your child on holiday outside of England and Wales you will require permission from all of those with parental responsibility or permission from the Court. If there is a Child Arrangements Order granted by the Court providing that the children are to live with you, you are entitled to take your child out of the jurisdiction for a period of 28 days without the consent of others with parental responsibility. It is important to remember that an exception to this is where there is a Prohibited Steps Order in place, which prevents the removal of a child from the jurisdiction.

It may often be the case in an acrimonious separation that the other parent with parental responsibility will not consent to allow their child to leave the jurisdiction, it is possible to seek the permission of the Court to remove the child from the jurisdiction for a temporary period of time. This is known as Specific Issue order. Prior to any application being issued to the Court an attempt to mediate with the other parent to reach an agreement is not only necessary but also a legal requirement.

Legal support from Lawson-West Solicitors

Navigating the school holidays for separated parents can be complex. If you have any concerns you wish to discuss in relation to this matter, contact Emma Piff on 0116 212 1000 or email epiff@lawson-west.co.uk.  

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