20 March 2018
Each year the school summer holidays roll around, eagerly anticipated by children and providing a considerable source of stress for parents. Deciding what to do with children for four to eight weeks each year is not easy and for separated parents the difficulties are increased. Arrangements that work well during the school term may need to be changed during the holidays and so flexibility and communication is key. The process of deciding who children will spend their time with and sticking to the conditions of any agreement can be made a lot smoother by taking a few simple steps. It's their holiday Disputes that arise can be fraught and reaching a compromise is never easy. But in the midst of these disputes, children have been counting down the days until they're free from school and ultimately that is what the summer holidays are about. Any disagreements over plans and dates will impact children's enjoyment of their break and extra tension between parents will mean extra stress for them. When making plans make sure they are child-focused. The law states that arrangements should be based on the interests of the children rather than the rights of the parents so aim to approach any disagreements with this in mind. The result will be a school holiday which is a lot more enjoyable for your child. During the planning process it is important not to forget the practicalities regarding children. Before the end of the holidays they will need time to prepare for school and recover from jet lag of holidays abroad so this needs to be factored in when choosing holiday dates. Courts are unlikely to look kindly on any travel plans that require children to miss school. Schedule ahead When the courts are involved in deciding arrangements for the summer holidays they often encourage discussion between the parents. If parents are able to have these discussions without seeking a court hearing a lot of money can be saved. As soon as schools provide the dates of holidays for the next academic year you should begin to plan where children will spend their time. If you are working, let the other parent know when you can get time off and find out the same from them. This way, any disagreement over dates and plans can be anticipated and dealt with well in advance and won't result in trips being cancelled at the last minute. Agreeing a minimum notice period with the other parent is one way of achieving extra security when making plans. Share as much information as possible. If you're planning on jetting off with your children on a surprise trip abroad, remember that in England it is illegal to take a child out of the country without the consent of both parents. The law makes it very important to share as much information as possible with the other parent if you plan to travel abroad with the children. It is worthwhile asking for written consent in the form of an email or written letter and likewise provide the same to the other parent if they plan to travel. The exception is if you have a residence order in which case the child can be taken out of the country for 35 days without the consent of the other parent. For the peace of mind for the other parent, details of any travel plans should be shared. Include the details of where you plan to stay, including address, your means of travel including flight nos. and times and contact information in case of emergency. Providing an itinerary is helpful, not least because the other parent won't need to rely on the children for updates, removing pressure from them. If you are travelling as a single parent it is always a wise precaution to have a 'consent' letter with you from the other parent. Reasonable communication On that note, disagreements over communication put pressure on children who may struggle to keep both parents happy. Consider the situation from the viewpoint of the other parent and support the communication you would want to have with your children in their position. If you are the parent taking the children on holiday, allow them to communicate regularly with the other parent. A “no news is good news” approach is likely to be a substantial source of stress which is unnecessary with the ease of modern communication. Similarly, if your children are on holiday without you, insisting on constant communication could end up monopolising their time.