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Overcoming school holiday conflict as a separated family


The school summer holidays can often be a time of stress for separated parents trying to arrange childcare cover and plan holidays at home or abroad. Rebecca Patience, family law solicitor at Harrison Drury, offers some practical tips and advice for parents.

Make your holiday plans well in advance

Often disputes arise between parents when insufficient notice is provided of holiday plans, so discuss these with the other parent as far in advance as possible. We would recommend that, at the beginning of each school year, parents look at the school holiday calendar together and pre-determine with which parent the children will spend each of their school holidays.

This ensures everyone is on the same page as to where the children will be spending their time and enables parents to make holiday plans for the time when the children are in their care. Once holiday arrangements are agreed consider recording these in a shared calendar, that can be accessed by both parents, so there is clarity as to what the agreed holiday arrangements are.

Work together to cover childcare obligations

For working parents, the school holidays can often create logistical difficulties when managing working commitments around caring for the children. If both parents are working, the school holidays create long periods of time where childcare needs to be organised. We would recommend that parents try to work together to agree contact arrangements that fit with both parents’ work commitments. Sharing childcare responsibilities between parents during the school holidays could ease logistical challenges for both parents.

Communicate clearly and be transparent

Clear and effective communication is essential when looking to agree holiday arrangements for the children. It ensures the other parent understands what it is you are proposing and why you feel it will be of benefit to the children. Once agreement has been reached as to what time the children are to spend with each parent, it’s important that positive communication between parents continues.

Be transparent with the other parent about where you will be holidaying with the children. We suggest you confirm to the other parent details of the holiday destination, accommodation details, flight numbers and flight times. We would recommend that if you are travelling abroad with the children that you obtain written consent from the other parent to travel. Here’s more information on travelling abroad with children as a separated or divorced parent.

Offer indirect contact with the other parent while on holiday

If it is the case that you are holidaying with the children for a prolonged period of time, you may want to consider the option of agreeing to some indirect contact between the children and the other parent while you are away. For example, you may consider agreeing to telephone calls or FaceTime contact. This could be considered to be in the best interests of the children, to ensure that their emotional needs are met and may reassure the other parent that children are enjoying their holiday time with you.

The offer of indirect contact during holiday periods may assist you in negotiating the arrangements for the children to spend longer periods of time in your care during the school holidays. We would recommend that there are clear agreements reached as to the mode, time and frequency of any indirect contact to ensure the other parent’s expectations are managed and that the children understand when it is they will be speaking with the other parent.

Remain child focused

In any discussions with the other parent about the holidays, it is imperative you put your children’s best interests first. You should try not to allow your personal feelings to influence your decision making in relation to the arrangements for the children. The school holidays should be a fun time for your children. It is the generally thinking of the court that it will be of benefit to children if they are able to enjoy quality time with both of their parents. It is important that this is kept in mind when agreeing arrangements.

What happens if arrangements cannot be agreed?

You could consider engaging in mediation to resolve any disputes that may arise in relation to holiday arrangements for the children. Mediators are trained professionals who will assist you and the other parent in resolving disagreements in a child focused way.

You could consider instructing solicitors to engage in negation on your behalf. There may be some benefit in solicitors becoming involved in negotiations, as this removes direct communication between you and the other parent in relation to the disputed issues.

If matters are not capable of resolution in mediation or via solicitors’ correspondence, you could issue an application to the court. The judge will be asked to consider how matters should be resolved to ensure the best interests of the children are met.

If you wish to seek advice regarding school holiday arrangements with your children, or for any other family matters, please contact Harrison Drury’s family law team on 01772 258321.

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