Children: Special Issue Orders, holidays, moving country

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.

Planning your holiday as a single parent

When it comes to booking your summer holiday there are no end of decisions to make including; the destination, dates, cost and duration. Being separated or divorced only adds to the complexity of this planning because you need to factor in your ex-partners commitments as well as your own.

To be able to take a child on holiday abroad, you must seek permission from everyone with parental responsibility over the child.

As a father do I have parental responsibility?

Mothers are granted parental responsibility automatically upon the birth of a child. A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother of the child or is listed on the child’s birth certificate.  Following a divorce or separation, both parents retain their parental responsibility.

Before booking a holiday, it is important to gain consent from the child’s mother and reach an agreement together with regards to the logistics. It is important to plan ahead because if an agreement is not reached and court involvement is required, it will delay matters.

How can I reach an agreement on holiday arrangements with my child’s mother?

If the relationship has remained amicable following a divorce or separation, it may be feasible to agree on holiday arrangements verbally.

Mediation is an alternative route to use in reaching an agreement if you cannot agree alone.  A mediator can help you and your ex-partner reach an agreement and they must remain unbiased throughout the process.

If you are able to reach an agreement either directly or through mediation you can instruct a solicitor to draft a child arrangements agreement that you can both sign. Whilst not a Court order, this will detail the agreements reached and can be produced to the Court should there be any future disagreements.

If having tried mediation, an agreement still cannot be reached, it may be necessary to make an application to the court for a child arrangement order to be put in place. You must be able to evidence that you attended a mediation assessment meeting before applying to the court and if court proceedings do go ahead, be mindful that this can take some time and will not be actioned immediately.