How do I share the care of our children over the holidays?
Separated parents not only need to undertake the (often difficult) task of planning activities to keep the children occupied over the school holidays, but they also need to juggle their arrangements with ex-partners to avoid logistical nightmares and potential conflict. Sara Morton, Senior Solicitor in our family team, shares her advice.
What information should I provide to my ex-partner and do I need their consent to take my child or children on holiday?
If both parents have Parental Responsibility, they are entitled to receive information about any proposed holidays either abroad or in the UK. This includes dates of travel, flight details, accommodation and emergency contact information. This should be provided in advance of any holiday. If one parent is seeking to take the child or children on holiday, and there are no Court Orders already in place, the other party should also, strictly speaking, seek the consent of the other parent to the proposed holiday, in advance.
If there is a Court Order in place, providing for a child or children to 'live with' one of their parents, that parent can take them out of the country for up to 28 days, without requiring the other party's prior consent. However, the requirement to provide travel information remains, if the other parent has Parental Responsibility, and so they will become aware of the proposed holiday, in any event.
What happens if my ex-partner doesn't want me to take our children on holiday?
If the consent of the other parent to a proposed holiday is not forthcoming, the parents could consider attending mediation to try and reach an agreement (if there is sufficient time to do so before the proposed holiday). It is always better to try and agree arrangements if you can. This is, however, reliant on both parties agreeing to attend mediation which may not be the case. Also, the mediation process can take some time, and may not be possible if the proposed holiday is fast approaching.
An application could be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order either by the travelling party (for an Order that the child or children can travel) or by the parent objecting to the proposed holiday (for an Order preventing the child or children from travelling). The Court can also make Orders about the handover of the child or children's passport(s) if the holiday is abroad. There are, however, risks involved with Court proceedings, which can be expensive.
If an application is made to the Court, the Court's paramount consideration is the welfare of the child or children. It is unusual for a Court to determine that a holiday with either parent is not in a child or children's best interests, unless there are safeguarding concerns.
I would strongly recommend that discussions and an open dialogue between parents regarding school holiday arrangements (whether that is the Summer, Easter or half term holidays) starts early. Establishing, in good time, whether a proposed holiday is agreed or not and dealing with any other issues surrounding holidays (e.g. the handover of the child's passport) gives parents time to ask the Court to adjudicate on these issues, if they cannot be agreed. This is not particularly helpful for parents who want to take advantage of a last-minute holiday deal, as Court proceedings themselves can take time.
However, a Court Order can provide some certainty for the travelling party. If a client approaches us at the last minute, it is unlikely the Court will have time to consider an application and difficult decisions or alterations to travel arrangements already in place, may have to be made.
For further information, contact us on 01922 720333 (Walsall Office) or 0121 7252293 (Sutton Coldfield Office).