Summer holidays and Child Arrangements
For families where the parents are separated or divorced, school holidays, especially the long summer break, can be a complicated and stressful period, increasing tensions which may linger when it comes to dividing the break, and any proposed or arranged holidays between you..
The main focus should, however, always be to keep the children’s interests at the centre of the matter. It is important to keep discussions and dialogues child focused; how will the arrangements work for them given they are the most significant aspect of the agreements.
Where no Child Arrangement Order exists, there is no strict rule as to how much time the children spend with each parent. This can be determined between you, taking account of working patterns; holidays; children’s other extracurricular activities and the other parents commitments. Account should also be taken of the wishes and feelings of older children/siblings, although it is imperative that the child understands that they are not being expected to ‘choose’ between their parents.
Where communication is strained or difficult, it can be helpful to have a shared calendar for childcare arrangements. There has been an increase in the use of mobile phone apps where you can both input the dates the children have plans and record who will be looking after them on certain days. This can help to remove the need to communicate directly, as well as having a record of the discussions, or agreements, if they are required to be provided to a court in the future.
The six-week holidays also pose another issue; the summer holiday.
If you want to take your children away on holiday, either in this country or abroad, it is important to discuss this with the other parent and to advise them of your intentions as soon as possible, providing all relevant information, such as where you will be staying, flight details and ,if required, details of any other party that is travelling with the child. Providing adequate notice will assist in preventing scheduling clashes and allow the other party to make other arrangements if required. It also allows time for an application to be made to court, if there is a significant disagreement. Though thinking, and planning ahead, often helps to avoid such applications as being necessary.
You should consider who holds the children’s passports and when these are going to be exchanged; it can be helpful to have the passports ‘travel’ with the child as they move between houses, or have them stored at a neutral third-party location which both of you can access as and when required, but this is something you can discuss with your co-parent. It can also be helpful to provide a photocopy of the passport to the other parent to keep.
Try to agree arrangements in advance so you both know where the children will be and when, but be mindful of making plans that you may not be able to stick to, especially where the children are aware, because should plans fall though, it is the children who will be most affected. It is important to also try and retain a level of flexibility because plans can change unexpectedly or unavoidably
In the long term, it may be useful to have a plan, or an order, that sets out when the children spend time with each parent as this can assist with avoiding arguments and potential confusion.
If you would like to discuss the arrangements for children over the summer or any other aspect of family law, please contact our family law team on 01608 656 590.