Holidays with your children

Schools are soon going to break up for the Easter holidays and over the next couple of weeks parents across the country will be planning to take their children away for a Spring vacation. But for parents who are separated or divorced, organising holidays with their offspring can be a source of considerable friction.

Potential problems for separated parents

Here at Paradigm Family Law, Managing Partner James Thornton says he is currently seeing an upturn in enquiries from disgruntled parents who are being prevented from spending extended periods with their children over the Easter holidays. “It is often because the parent with care refuses to allow the children to go away with their former partner, whether in this country or more often than not abroad,” he explains.

Court action

Court action can be taken by estranged parents to secure contact over the summer holidays and can include specific applications for child arrangement orders making children available for trips abroad. Whilst mediation is usually the first and best way to resolve differences over contact arrangements, rarely in these circumstances do parents plan ahead. In those situations where mediation is not practicable, it may need an application to court. Courts are generally supportive of parents who want to spend holidays away with their children as it is more often than not seen to be in the best interests of the child to have contact with both parents, whether or not those parents see eye-to-eye themselves.

 6 top tips

However, on the basis it is better to avoid the need to apply to court in the first place, James offers the following advice to all separated parents looking to take their children away on holiday this summer:

  1. Give plenty of notice to the other parent, and the children of the plans and seek their approval and agreement to the trip
  2. Avoid school term time wherever possible
  3. Have firm arrangements, and give full details of the plans to include flights (departure and destination airport, times and phone numbers for airline), hotels/accommodation with contact number and a number to call in case of emergency
  4. Establish when the passports will be made available, preferably at least 72 hours before the anticipated time of departure, (in case any problems in release of the passports means that a court application is necessary)
  5. Maintain regular contact with each other in the run up to the trip to minimise the likelihood of any surprises at the last minute, for example a change of heart
  6. Be aware of the possibility of health or other genuine reasons why the trip might be cancelled and take out appropriate insurance

Last resort

If there do not appear to be any good reasons why the trip can’t take place, then the chances are it should. Applications to court can be made at short notice, but in practical terms should be made as soon as any difficulty is suspected. Parents in that situation should be aware though that it is rare for costs to be recovered from the opponent in such cases, and those costs can often be equal or greater than the costs of the trip itself.

Surely it is far better to avoid the need to apply to court by talking to the other parent at the earliest opportunity and securing their agreement to the trip. You never know, they might even be glad of the holiday themselves!

Contact us

James Thornton is an accredited child law specialist, certified by Resolution, the Association for Family Lawyers. He has been awarded Government accreditation and is here to help if you have any queries or think you might need to secure contact in advance of the Easter break. Call 0845 6020422 to speak to James or email him at: [email protected] for a free initial consultation.