5 steps to navigate summer holidays when you’re divorced
You may have only just finished getting rid of those last, stubborn granules of sand that pocketed themselves from your last summer holiday (where do they keep coming from?), but that time of the year is nearly upon us again. Just a few more weeks and school will be out, which can be terribly exciting for kids, but can be enough to make parents order double-shot espressos – when they don’t even drink coffee. And, if you’re divorced, the summer holidays can be enough to tip you into caffeine-addiction territory.
Feeling stressed up to the nines is obviously something we’d all like to avoid, which is why having a clear plan can be a huge help. Below QualitySolicitors talks through five steps divorced parents can take to ensure smooth sailing for the summer holidays.
1. Start holiday talks early
This applies whether you want a day, weekend or week with your child. The earlier you can plan when you’d like to spend time with your child or children, the more time you’ll have to make arrangements and check the plans with your ex.
Communicating openly and early also means there’s less chance both parents’ plans will conflict and you’ll both be a lot calmer in the approach to school holidays because you won’t be worrying about whether or not you can make last-minute plans happen.
That’s not to say you need to plan a year-out, but certainly weeks and months in advance would be helpful. After all, no harm ever came from sound planning. When you do start the conversation with your former partner, make sure you’re very clear on what days and times you’d like to spend with your child. If you want to make plans that require bookings, let them know that too so they know you’re investing in those particular dates.
Given the summer holidays are just around the corner now, this might be something to raise for October half-term too. You could also consider broaching the topic to come up with a general arrangement for school holidays, special occasions or events like Christmas and birthdays going forward. For example, maybe you’d like to take turns having your child for these periods or you could split the time to suit each of your availability.
2. Record your child arrangements in writing
However you and your ex-partner decide to make the school holiday period work for you, it’s a good idea to put your agreement in writing. This will not only help with organisation, but it will help you both keep track of what’s been agreed when you’re making bookings or holiday arrangements again in the future. By having this as a point of reference, you don’t have to ‘start again’ every time the holidays roll around.
One way to record what arrangements you’ve both agreed to is to make a Parenting Plan. This doesn’t have to involve a formal process if you can both agree easily and there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about what should be included – you can tailor your plan to suit you both. If you’re looking for a good place to start, though, try using this free Parenting Plan template from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).
You may already have a Parenting Plan from when you and your former partner split or divorced. If you do, then refer back to this when discussing child arrangements for the school holidays. It may already have helpful notes about general arrangements that were last agreed, or you may find the plan needs updating. Treat your Parenting Plan as a living document and change it in agreeance with your former partner as and when you need to.
3. 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 – and it’s always advisable to have that consent in writing. If you’re lucky enough to be planning multiple trips, then you need to make a point of getting consent for each trip. This could be as simple as having that consent acknowledged in a letter or email, noting important details like who the consent is being given to, the dates of the trip and what city or cities the child is being taken during that period.
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).
Consent is important not just out of respect for both parents, but because you could be charged with the criminal offence of child abduction if you attempt to take your child without permission. So, be sure and ask, get consent and have it in writing to prove it.
4. Get specialist family law advice if you need it
We completely understand that not all parents are on the best of terms with one another, and this can especially be the case if the split or divorce was recent and emotions are still running high. If talking about child arrangements over the school holiday period is just not going to happen in any civil way, or you have tried talking to no avail, then QualitySolicitors’ approachable family solicitors can help. Sometimes it might be easier to involve a professional to start the conversation on the right foot.
Our family solicitors can help you write a letter to the other parent that details exactly what time you’d like to spend with your child or children for a particular holiday period, or more generally how you’d like to split the time for holidays and special occasions going forward. We can add this to an existing Parenting Plan, or help you both put one in place.
5. Try mediation before considering court
Depending on how your ex responds, it may be beneficial to refer you both to mediation so you can try and work out your differences in the best interests of your child or children, and you can look at ways you can communicate effectively in the future.
Whilst many parents find mediation a helpful solution, it does not always work. If you still can’t agree on how you’re both going to spend time with your kids, the last resort option is to make an application for a Specific Issue Order to the Family Court. Going to court can further exacerbate any tension, deteriorate any existing relationship and can cost time and energy.
The court’s paramount concern will always be for the welfare of your child or children. In making this application, you also need to be prepared that the court may not decide in your favour. If you are intending on going through court to have this issue resolved, seek legal advice so that you improve your chances of success.
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 agreeable, then contact QualitySolicitors for legal advice and support on 0808 135 33 95.