The school summer holidays are almost upon us. For London child custody solicitors that means many enquiries, often from anxious fathers, wanting to find a solution to sorting out summer holiday contact and getting to spend a bit of quality time with their children after a separation or divorce.
When the sun is out and the London parks are teeming with parents and children, it can really hit home if you have not been able to reach an agreement with your ex-partner over whether the children can spend time with you over the long summer holidays or if you are just not able to agree the holiday contact dates.
Child custody solicitors say that if you want to spend time with your children over the school holiday period but you do not already have a child custody or access order (nowadays called a child arrangements order) in place then you need to act fast to sort out the contact so that you and the children do not miss out.
The fair division of the summer school holiday between separated or divorced parents can be a real battle to sort out. London child law solicitors say that is sometimes because parents have genuine worries about letting their ex-partner take the children off their hands for a week, a fortnight or half of the school summer holidays. Sometimes the refusal to agree summer holiday contact is more about one parent’s desire to control the other.
Whatever the reason behind why your summer holiday contact is not sorted out yet London child custody solicitors say it is not too late, if you act quickly to resolve the contact problem.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
The child law solicitors at OTS Solicitors advise on all aspects of family and children
law and have particular experience in helping fathers sort out contact arrangements to see their children.
For constructive, pragmatic advice on sorting out contact and tenacious representation in contact court proceedings call the child law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London children law solicitors.
Separated dads and holiday contact
Top child custody solicitors and other professionals involved in court proceedings concerning children all acknowledge that children can suffer if they live in a separated family and they do not get to see their dad. When a parent prevents contact, whether it is on a weekly basis or during school holidays, or contact stops altogether, it can really affect a child and their emotional wellbeing.
Sadly, it is often the case that if there are arguments over how much time a separated dad should spend with the children over the school summer holidays, what is best for the children may not be number one on the priorities when agreeing contact dates. Sometimes separated dads can feel as if they come second or even third place to children spending time with grandparents, cousins, or even to summer holiday camps.
For separated dads, not being number one on the list of who the children spend summer school holiday time with can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes contact or access cannot be agreed because the focus is punishing or hurting the father. Other times, contact cannot be agreed because the ex-partner thinks a grandparent or a school friend’s mother will provide meals that are more nutritious or a wider range of holiday activities. That may be correct but a separated dad does not have to be able to provide Michelin chef standard meals for the children to be able to spend time with their dad. Most of us can remember falling ill from undercooked chicken or sausages on the summer barbecue and that is what special summer holiday memories of time with dad are made of.
Summer holiday contact orders
The end of the school summer term is fast approaching so separated dads need to act fast to sort out contact with their children, either on a weekly basis, on special occasions or if the problem just relates to spending time with the children over the school holidays.
The best London child law solicitors say that the first step to sorting out summer holiday contact is working out the dates that you want to have the children. That involves knowing what the school holiday dates are. The next step is finding out if your ex has already booked a holiday away with the children, and if not, what their plans are. Communication is important, as the children may not appreciate two separate holidays to Cornwall, with no time to recover from the journey home, before heading back to Cornwall for the second holiday.
If you are a recently separated dad, you may find that an ex-partner is reluctant to agree to the children spending a fortnight with you but will agree to your spending a week with the children. The start point to sorting out holiday contact is that the school holidays should be shared. That does not mean that if the school summer holiday is six weeks long you should both spend three weeks each with the children. The time can be broken down into weeks or fortnights of time to suit the family needs as well as holiday plans and work commitments.
Agreement over holiday contact can be reached by:
• Verbal discussions - but you should write the agreement down and get confirmation that the contact arrangements are agreed. Even if the access arrangements are confirmed by WhatsApp, text or email that is better than relying on verbal agreements;
• Mediation – if you are stuck on the principle of whether you can see the children over the school holidays or the issue is how much time you can spend with them or there is a disagreement on contact dates then family mediation may be able to help you. If you reach agreement in family mediation then the family mediator should prepare a memorandum of understanding setting out the contact agreement;
• Solicitor negotiations – a child law solicitor will help you reach a contact agreement and record it. Sometimes legal advice from a child custody solicitor can quickly sort contact out if an ex-partner knows that you are serious about applying for a child arrangements order if a sensible agreement cannot be reached.
What happens if summer holiday contact cannot be agreed?
If you cannot reach an agreement on either the principle of summer holiday contact or the specific dates that you should spend time with your child then you can apply to the court for a child arrangements order.
What is a child arrangements order?
A child arrangements order is the new name for what most of us, including the child custody solicitors, still think of as an access or a contact order.
A separated dad can apply for a child arrangements order for holiday contact. The child arrangements order should ideally set out the weekly school term contact arrangements, special occasion contact (such as birthdays and Christmas or Eid) as well as school holiday contact.
When a parent makes an application for a child arrangements order the court will make a decision on whether to permit holiday and other types of contact based on what the family judge thinks is in your child’s best interests.
Some separated dads ask London child custody solicitors if it is worth applying to court to get a child arrangements order to see their children during the school summer holidays and other school breaks. The best child law solicitors will tell you that any contact between father and child is not about you. It is about what your child needs and deserves.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
Our empathetic and experienced London based child law solicitors can help you sort out contact to see your child. OTS Solicitors advise on all aspects of family and child custody law and have particular experience in representing fathers in applications for child arrangements orders to sort out contact, even after contact has been stopped.
For advice on any aspect of children law please get in touch with us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to an experienced child custody solicitor.