Contact Arrangements for Children during the school holidays
School holidays – an exciting but also difficult time for all parents, whether separated or not. It is a time when you want to make the most of the child’s free time but due to obstacles such as work and expense, it isn’t easy and even more so for parents who are separated.
Are you in dispute about arrangements for contact with the child during the school holidays, or perhaps about whether one parent can take the child overseas and for how long? During these times of dispute, it is important to remember that the child’s welfare is paramount. Generally, the issue between parents during the school holidays is that they simply have differing views about what is in the child’s best interests.
During term time, many parents will adhere to child arrangement orders or agreements in relation to the time that the child spends with each parent. This might be an arrangement whereby the non-resident parent has contact on alternate weekends with overnight stay and maybe an evening each week for example. As childcare is expensive and often difficult to acquire, it is likely that the resident parent may need the non-resident parent to contribute more than usual during the school holidays which can be up to six weeks long. This will obviously depend on the individual circumstances of the family for example, the parents might live far away from each other or even in different countries meaning that contact for the non-resident parent isn’t as frequent.
Whilst young children require more time and attention, older (usually teenage) children ordinarily have their own social life and other activities to attend to and so scheduling time to see them isn’t as clear cut and this is where parents have to demonstrate flexibility. The court are unlikely to force a teenager over fourteen to have contact with the other parent and at least from the age of around twelve and in some cases from a younger age, the court strongly takes into account the child’s wishes and feelings.
For some separated parents, sorting these child arrangements might be simple. For others, these conversations can be difficult and help from a solicitor might be required so that both the parent and the child have a structure in place and can focus on enjoying their quality time together. It is important to plan in advance so that the child feels settled and happy at all times. Again, for older children this will give them time to consider sport activities/ time with their friends i.e. avoiding further disputes arising between separated parents as a result of the child being absent.
Taking your child away on holiday is an exciting time for both parent and child however this requires an agreement between both parents and usually means that the other parent misses out on contact with the child. It is important to be reasonable and accommodating in these circumstances perhaps by arranging for the other parent to make up for lost time.
As family solicitors, we use our legal expertise to advise parents as to the principles of family law which governs arrangements for children. This could include whether a young child should travel overseas which a parent or how their time should be shared.
Our first step is to explain to the client what their options and then explore which option best suits their needs and individual circumstances. The options ordinarily include:
- Having direct discussions with their ex-partner, preferably in a neutral place e.g. over coffee;
- Engaging with a family mediator who will facilitate discussions between the parties, most likely round a table as an impartial third party professional;
- Arranging a round table meeting between both parties and their respective solicitors should the parties wish for the process to be solicitor led. This can be organised through collaboratively trained lawyers if both parties wish;
- Traditional correspondence and telephone communication between solicitors on behalf of the parties.
- As a last resort the parties can apply to Court for a child arrangements order, but only after attending an initial mediation information and assessment meeting unless exceptional circumstances apply.
If you feel you need some assistance with sorting out arrangements for your children this summer, our family specialists would be happy to arrange an initial telephone or face to face appointment. Please contact a member of our family team for more details on 0113 322 9222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.