School’s Out For Summer – How to negotiate the holidays

divorce school holidaysThe summer holidays are nearly upon us, and that can mean challenges for separated and divorced parents.  Unlike Christmas, or half term, the holidays are long, and tension can pop up in all sorts of places.  As well as actually holidays, there are also childcare, back to school and financial issues to take into account.

However forewarned is forearmed, and some thought and planning will allow you to manage six weeks relatively unscathed.

First the good news.  Separated parents can divide time between them.  Whereas before, a summer holiday would be taken together, now you will be taking separate holidays and spending time with your children alone.  This can often take up 4 of the 6 weeks, which can be a distinct advantage.

It’s not all plain sailing though, and issues can arise. Here are some tips on how you can avoid them.

Advanced planning

You should have already decided when your children will be spending time with each parent over the summer.  This should ideally be done at the start of the year or, even better, as soon as the school holiday dates are released for the following year.  This allows you to plan holidays and activities with certainty.  Are you going to have 3 weeks each?  Will they be taken in one block or will they be staggered?  Be sure to ask your children what they would prefer.  Some employers may have restrictions on when staff can take holiday, or there may be wider family considerations, so be as flexible as possible.

Share your plans

If both parents have parental responsibility, then you will need consent if you wish to take your children out of the country.  If you have a Children’s Arrangement Order this is not necessary if you are travelling for less than 28 days but should still be done out of courtesy. This is best done by written letter that can be carried with the passports.  You are much more likely to get this consent if you share your plans early on and are open and honest.  Talk about who has the passports, when they will be handed over again. Give plenty of notice about what will be required such as visas or immunisations.  A parent will probably be packing for the child so what clothing will they need and for how long, will they need special equipment that they may have at home already?

Be the grown up

It’s important to put your emotions to one side and be there for your children.  Often this will be the longest they will be away from either parent in the year and they may be nervous about that.  The change in established routine can often make children unsettled, or these could be completely new arrangements if your separation is recent.  It’s vital that they have your emotional support and reassurance.  This can be difficult to deal with if a new partner is going along with them, or there is a big difference in the type of experiences you can afford, but it is important.  Vent to someone else if you have to, but not your children.

Share the rough with the smooth

Summer holidays are a chance to spend quality time with your children and create some truly special memories.  However, it can’t all be Disneyland, and there will also be days of wet weather, boredom, frustration as well as logistics and planning.  Be sure to discuss this with your ex-partner and make sure responsibilities are shared equally.  For example, don’t pack the time with so many fun activities and late nights that they are exhausted when they spend time with their other parent.  Similarly, don’t leave the parent with the last week to sort out (and pay for) all the school haircuts, uniforms and equipment shopping.  And make sure your children tell you both about any school projects that need completing!

What if you can’t agree?

Ideally, holiday arrangements would be agreed in principle as part of the settlement, including any allowances for additional childcare costs and expenses.

However, if at a later date you are unable to agree, or your partner refuses consent for any reason, you have a number of options

  • A trained mediator will sit with both parties and discuss the issues until a compromise agreement can be made.
  • Your Solicitor. If mediation is impossible or unsuccessful, then we can correspond with your ex-partner on your behalf.
  • Court Application. If both of these are unsuccessful, the matter can be taken back to court where the court will decide according to the child’s best interests.  Any decision reached will be legally binding. This can be costly, lengthy and should be a last resort.

However you decide to spend the holidays, remember that these are the days your children will remember, and make the most of them.