Sorting out Summer Holiday Contact for Separated Parents
You may think that as a separated parent, it is too early to sort out summer holiday contact with your children. It isn’t. Our family law solicitors recommend that you start discussions now with your ex-partner so you have time to reach an agreement or obtain a child arrangement order from the family court.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors
Is there a set summer holiday contact schedule for separated parents?
Separated and divorced parents often ask the family lawyers at OTS Solicitors if there is a schedule for summer holiday contact so they know what child arrangement order the court would make to sort out a dispute over how much time a child should spend with each parent over the holidays. There isn’t. That’s because the court will make a decision on summer holiday contact based on what is in your child’s best interests.
The court will not impose equal holiday time on every child or order that all children should spend alternate weeks with each parent over the holidays. For many families that sort of ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. For example, one parent may not be able to get time off work to allow them to look after the children for half the holidays whilst the other parent is not working and is available. For example, if one parent has extended family overseas, the parent may want to take the children to see their family for the majority of the summer holidays because the journey will involve long-haul flights and cannot be afforded every year.
Sorting out summer holiday contact
Our family law solicitors recommend that you try and reach an agreement over summer holiday contact as soon as the school releases the holiday term dates so that you can both book time off work to spend time with the children and to arrange your annual summer holiday with the children. Remember that if you want to take the children abroad on holiday you will need the other parents written agreement unless you already have a child arrangement order that says that the children live with you.
If you know that you will not be able to reach an agreement with your ex-partner then a family law solicitor can either help you negotiate the child contact, provide legal support in between family mediation sessions, or apply to the court for a child arrangement order.
A child arrangement order can cover a specific holiday or set out future arrangements for school holidays. For example, the child arrangement order could say that all school holidays are to be shared equally with the exact dates to be agreed between the parents or specify that the non-residential parent is to have the first two or last two weeks of every school summer holiday. The court will not want to be too prescriptive but equally will want to try and sort out a holiday schedule that avoids either parent having to apply back to court the following year for another child arrangement order.
The importance of flexibility
For some parents, it is highly frustrating and aggravating when the other parent requests holiday contact at the last minute or wants to change agreed plans. Flexibility can be important if there is a genuine need to change plans or a special event, such as wanting the children to be able to see a grandparent who is unwell or attend a family wedding.
If you are prepared to be flexible over the contact arrangements make sure the changed plans are recorded, even if it is just an exchange of text messages, and make sure that if your ex-partner wants to change dates that they are equally accommodating to your requests for flexibility. For example, you may want to take the children overseas next year to see extended family or you may want to spend extra time with the children during the half-term holidays.
Applying for a child arrangement order
Most families do not need a child arrangement order to sort out the parenting and holiday contact arrangements. However, if your ex-partner will not compromise or recognise your children’s right to spend quality time with both parents over the school summer holidays, you may have no alternative other than to apply to the court for a child arrangement order.
Examples of when a child arrangement order may be necessary include:
- Parental alienation- your ex-partner will not agree to contact because of parental alienation
- Trust - your ex-partner will not agree to overnight contact because they have trust issues and doubt your abilities as a parent
- Child abduction - your ex-partner will not agree to your taking the children out of the UK as they fear child abduction because you are either not a British citizen or you have strong family links with another country and your former partner fears you will not return to the UK with the children at the end of your holiday
- Inflexibility- your ex-partner wants the children to spend half the holiday with them to prove a point even though he/she will be working long hours and the children will be cared for by their new partner
Whatever the reasons why you are unable to sort out school holiday contact our specialist family law solicitors can help you with pragmatic children law legal advice and, if necessary, assist you with securing a child arrangement order.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors