The eagerly anticipated school summer holidays are nearly upon us. For many this brings a feeling of relief after what has been a difficult time for schools and businesses. But for some, including separated parents, the holidays can present difficulties.
The additional complication this year will be what families should and should not be doing over the summer. Some parents will embrace the opportunity to take their children away and spend time doing activities that they've been unable to do over the last year or so. Other parents will still feel incredibly cautious and do not feel ready for life to return to 'normal'.
Whilst some businesses have operated on a 'business as usual' basis or are slowly returning to that, other businesses will still be encouraging employees to work from home or adopting different working patterns. This can create difficulties for separated parents who are still trying to work from home and also look after their children.
Our Top Tips
Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, we have set out below ideas on how to help you manage the summer holidays:
Start planning early - Both parents should know the school term times and holidays. Parents should (so far as possible) work together to make plans for the school holidays. You should allow sufficient time to consider the other parent's proposals and reach a consensus. If parents are unable to agree, this allows time for parents to speak to specialists, including lawyers, about how to deal with their disagreements.
Write it down - Whilst for some parents this may seem unduly formal, writing arrangements down helps avoid ambiguity and reduce the risk of disagreement at a later date. It may be helpful to plot the dates/times on a calendar as this helps illustrate how the arrangements will work and identify any gaps.
Set out your expectations - This is particularly important as the pandemic is still prevalent and cases are rising. So far as possible, make the other parent aware of your proposed plans for your child. For example, whether you plan to travel with your child. This gives the other parent the opportunity to raise any concerns that they may have and for parents to discuss how any concerns can be mitigated. It is important that both parents and the child feels comfortable with any arrangements that are made.
Be organised - If you are planning on taking children abroad, make sure that the parent taking the child has everything necessary for the child within plenty of time. This includes passports and medical insurance. We have previously advised on cases where holidays were booked and then the child's passport was unreasonably withheld by one parent.
The child's best interests - What is in the child's best interests should be at the heart of parental decision making. Whilst parents may have differing views on what we should and should not be doing at the moment, the priority should be the child's welfare. This extends beyond any risk to the child's physical health.
Existing Child Arrangements
Notwithstanding the points set out above, parents should consider any existing child arrangements when discussing school holiday arrangements. If, for whatever reason, existing child arrangements need to be amended, this must be mutually agreed by the parents. Any changes should be made with primary consideration given to the child's best interests. Any permanent proposed alterations to an Order should be set out in a Consent Order signed by both parents and filed with the court.
What If Parents Cannot Agree?
Unless there is a Court Order stating otherwise, both parents should input equally to decisions regarding child arrangements. Neither parent's position should take precedence over the other. If parents cannot agree on child arrangements, they should consider discussing the issues with a family practitioner. This includes lawyers, mediators or other specifically trained experts who can help facilitate discussions between parents to help reach an agreement. Parties are encouraged, where possible, to avoid court for settling disputes as this can be costly, timely and damage relationships further.
If you would like any advice on child arrangements please contact Samantha Hickman in our Private Client team on 07464 544828, or please complete the form below.