The school holidays are fast approaching. It’s one of the best times of the year for children. At the same time, it is one of the most challenging for parents. This is especially the case for families going through a separation. One of the major challenges for separated parents can be agreeing the arrangements for the children during the holidays. This is a common area for conflict.
Summer holidays and other important dates in the year (including Christmas, Easter and birthdays) can be a difficult time for children dividing their life between two homes. Many families have established arrangements which work very well, but for the newly separated this is uncharted water. If parents are unable to agree arrangements, it can result in tense and emotional discussions, sometimes in front of the children, following which one parent is inevitably disappointed. It is difficult advice to give that, generally, the holidays are there to benefit the children, rather than the parents. Unfortunately, often one or both parents lose focus and turn discussions into a purely mathematical exercise during which they try to ensure they take exactly their 50% entitlement for each of the holidays. This might not work on a practical level as it can involve the children toing and froing or missing out on specific events which they looked forward to.
Particular thought needs to be given to international families. Often they travel to another country, either for a holiday or to spend time with an extended family. In these cases, the “left behind” parent, particularly if they don’t have a new partner or family nearby, can find it incredibly difficult being away from their children at these important times, especially for the first time. Parents wanting to take their children abroad must remember to obtain the consent of each party with parental responsibility before they leave the country. Failure to do so could result in unnecessary court proceedings or even criminal action.
As a general rule, the family courts recognise the benefit in children spending alternate Christmases, Easters and sometimes birthdays, with each parent. There are occasions when the parent with care, which is often but not always the mother, is reluctant to accept this as a principle. This is because they will have spent every Christmas/birthday with their children while the family were still together and they will perceive any change to this routine as detrimental or unfair.
It is essential that the children remain in the forefront of everyone’s minds when discussions take place about the division of childcare generally and during the school holidays. If you and your ex-partner are not able to agree matters yourselves, there are a number of organisations who can help. You do not need to involve solicitors immediately if this will increase the conflict and be perceived as adversarial. We refer many clients to mediators, family therapists or counsellors to help facilitate discussions between them and their ex-partner. In our experience, the more amicable discussions can remain, the more likely parents will remain focussed on what is best for the children, rather than on winning the ‘battle’ they believe they have with their ex-partner surrounding holiday contact.
If you would like to speak to Simon Walker, our specialist children solicitor, call him on 01935 811614 or email firstname.lastname@example.org