Don’t Have the Holiday Blues

A guide for separated parents arranging holiday contact with their children

If you are recently separated from your partner, trying to arrange holidays with your children is always a difficult subject to deal with. It can be very stressful for you and also worrying for your child.

There are about 13 weeks of school holidays as well as extra inset days, birthdays, bank holidays and special occasions to share between you both, so it can also be an expensive time if you need to consider childcare costs. The most important thing is to plan and communicate with each other so that you and your children know the arrangements and there can be no misunderstandings which can then cause disappointment and arguments.

No one likes to be told when they can and can’t see their child and having a holiday should be an enjoyable fun time for your children, so try and discuss and offer dates at the earliest possible time. It is not only about going away but also about how you are both going to care for your children during the school holidays when you both may still have to work and it may be that you have to ask family and friends to help or look at holiday clubs. 

If you are planning a trip away then you should give all the details of the holiday including times, flights, addresses and contact details, anything you would expect to have if you were going on the trip. If you don’t get a reply or you get a negative response, then mediation is a good way to try and resolve the arrangements. Go and see an independent mediator or even ask family and friends who may be able to help by trying to talk and discuss reasonably the options with you both.

Going to court should be your last resort, but if there is no co-operation from your former partner then the court will consider your case and make an order, they think is appropriate. Remember the order may not be what you want, the court can consider something that neither of you are happy with.

What holiday arrangements can a court order?

A court can make a child arrangement order which can define arrangements for all contact a child has and this can include all holidays. Hopefully you will be able to agree some issues but any you can’t decide on the court can consider. The court will look at all the evidence and even though every case is different to start with there is usually a presumption of a shared order for you both to have half of the holidays with your child, where there are no welfare concerns. It can order drop off times, collection times, who attends with the child on the holiday and any other special arrangements needed.

How should I start with dividing the school holidays?

You will have to consider what your child would like and be comfortable with but also consider your work commitments and any childcare costs. Whatever you suggest should be in the children’s best interests and be fair and reasonable to both parents. The children will want to see both sides of their family and this includes extended family and grandparents. Look at a calendar and find out when all your child’s school holidays are and check the school website as sometimes dates are different from school to school and area to area. You shouldn’t take your child out of school during term time but if you are intending to you will need the school’s permission and discuss with your former partner. If you are splitting the summer and having three weeks each you need to check if it is possible with your job to have that much time off and will your child cope with not seeing each parent for three weeks at a time. It may be a long time for some children and an alternative arrangement could be suggested where you have a week or two weeks at a time. 

Are there any restrictions on where to take your children on holidays?

If you want to take your children abroad then make sure when you book the trip that their passports are up to date, get new ones in plenty of time. Make a note of when they are due for renewal so you can plan for future holidays. You need to get your former partners consent for any holiday, but if you are going abroad then it is even more important as if they do not agree they could get a court order to stop the trip. You need to share all the details of the trip including where, when and how you are getting there, who you are going with and provide all addresses and contact details. If your partner does not agree to the trip you will need to make an application to court, to get an order to allow you to go. It will take several months to be heard so you need to discuss the trip in plenty of time. If you book the trip before the court order is made you may lose your money if the court do not list the hearing in time or do not make the order. Even if you have a court order that your children live with you check the wording as it may say you are able to go abroad for up to 28 days without permission from the other parent as long as it does not break their contact order, check as you may need to apply for a court order if you are intending to travel for an extended period of time.

What other types of contact are there?

You can look at all different types of contact known as indirect contact. Facetime, phone calls, Skype, text, WhatsApp and good old-fashioned letters and cards can all be included in the agreement and can take place when you are not seeing your child, so they still stay in touch with you. Children enjoy routine and a regular call or postcard is something they would look forward to and enjoy.

If you have any questions and want to discuss the arrangements for your child please contact us at Hopkins Law in our Cardiff, Cowbridge or Chepstow office and one of our lawyers will be able to help.

Sally Fitzherbert