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Child arrangements for the summer holidays

You can almost hear the squeals of delight that will echo when the last school bell and the kids scramble out the door to start their summer holidays. Your feelings might match that excitement if you’re fortunate enough to be able to take work off and enjoy extra time with your child or children.

For separated parents, though, it can also be a stressful period, particularly if your ex-partner isn’t open to sharing the holidays and your arrangements don’t go according to plan. Below we talk through some steps separated parents can take in the lead up to the school holidays to avoid disagreements and disappointment.

Start holiday talks early

One of the best approaches to avoid conflict as the school holidays near is to start the discussion early. If you’re on speaking terms with your former partner and feel comfortable to bring the topic up, then open up the floor for discussion well in advance of the school holidays. The clearer you are, the less chances there are of miscommunication, so be sure to let your ex know exactly what days you’d like to spend with your child or children.

It may be the case that you can agree on a broader arrangement for holiday periods and special occasions or events like Christmas and Birthdays. You may choose to share these periods equally, split the time to suit each of your availability, or to take turns having your child or children for each of these special moments, for example.

Record your child arrangements in writing

However you and your ex-partner decide to make the school holiday period work for you, so that you both have the chance to spend time with your kids, it’s a good idea to put your agreement in writing. This is not essential, but it can be a good point of reference for both parents to come back to if you’re deciding on holiday arrangements again in the future or you’ve forgotten what was agreed.

One way to do this is to make a Parenting Plan; the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) provide a good overview of what this involves and provide a free template to complete. You may already have a Parenting Plan from when you and your former partner split or divorced. If you do have an existing Parenting Plan, this could be a good starting point for holiday talks or you may find the plan needs updating. Both parents should agree any changes made to the plan, if these are needed, so that it better reflects your change in circumstances.

Get consent to go abroad or inter-city

If you’re planning on taking your little one or little ones abroad or to another city then you will need to have the other parent’s consent (unless there is a court order in place), and written consent is always best. There is no formal process that you have to follow in order to get consent; it could be as simple as having that consent acknowledged in a letter or email. To make the process smoother, have a copy of that written consent available to produce at the border if questioned, along with a copy of the child’s birth or adoption certificate (to prove your relationship with the child) or a copy of your divorce certificate (which could be helpful if your child has a different surname to you). Without that express consent, you could be charged with the criminal offence of child abduction – so it’s important to get permission! If there is a court order in place, you will need bespoke legal advice.

What to do if both parents can’t agree

It can be difficult to come to an agreement if the split or divorce was recent and emotions are still high or if you’re not on good terms with one another. If you have tried to talk about your plans for the school holidays but couldn’t come to an agreement, or you’re not comfortable initiating that conversation, then you can ask one of our approachable family solicitors in Wrexham or Mold to help.

Our family solicitors can help you write a letter to the other parent that details your proposal for child arrangements over the holiday period, or more generally for the school holidays going forward, and we can request a timely response. We’ll be sure to be clear about your child arrangements proposal, can advise on your contact rights and will provide advice on whether your proposals are realistic. Depending on how your ex responds, one way forward may be to refer you to mediation so that you can try and work out a fair arrangement together.

Sometimes, even with mediation, it can be difficult to come to an arrangement that you both agree with or think is fair. If that’s the case, then you have the option of making an application to the Family Court in order to spend time with your child or children, but this should only be considered as a last resort. Going to court can further exacerbate any tension, deteriorate any existing relationship and can cost time and energy. If you are intending to go on holiday with your child and the other parent does not agree, then you can make an application for a Specific Issue Order. The court’s paramount concern will always be for the welfare of your child or children. Proceedings take time, however, and there is no guarantee the court will have dealt with the matter before these summer holidays.

Further help and specialist family law advice

If you’re feeling anxious about the upcoming school holidays because you might not get to spend time with your child or children and your ex-partner isn’t being agreement, then contact us for legal advice and support.

Our family solicitors can provide clarity in what can otherwise be a very stressful situation. So if you can’t get excited about the school holidays just yet like your kid or kids are, then call our family law team on 01978 884 125 (Wrexham) or 01352 859 882 (Mold).

Posted in: Family law

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