Whilst most children are ecstatic about the long awaited summer school holiday, this can sometimes be a stressful time for parents if they need to organise childcare during the extended break. It can become even more difficult where parents are separated and they cannot agree on the arrangements.
Communicate & get organised
It is always advisable to try and communicate with the other parent to agree the arrangements early on, and way before the summer holiday. Some parents are able to agree that in January of each year they will discuss and agree the arrangements for the rest of the year. This enables both parents to be able to plan ahead and book holidays and time off work accordingly.
Prepare a Parenting Plan
If communication is difficult, Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) have produced a ‘Parenting Plan’ template which is a written plan worked out between parents after they separate and it covers the practical issues of parenting. This could be a way to agree the holiday arrangements between separated parents.
A parenting plan can be accessed here: www.cafcass.gov.uk/download/4365
Family mediation is another way to try and work through the arrangements. Mediation is the process by which families can negotiate about future arrangements for children with the help of a neutral third party. The mediator does not tell parties what to do, but can help the parties to reach their own agreements amicably, whilst trying to improve communication between them.
Apply to the Court
If parties cannot work together to agree the arrangements, a last resort would be to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. However, parents should proceed with caution due to the extended delays in the Family Court, meaning that the first hearing could be as far as 3-4 months away. This option should always be a last resort and parents are encouraged to try the above options first. In fact, it is mandatory to attend family mediation before an application can be made to the Court (unless there has been domestic violence or other limited factors).
Family law arbitration
Family arbitration is an alternative to Court and a form of private dispute resolution in which parents can appoint a fair and impartial family arbitrator to resolve the dispute. Family arbitration is an ideal approach for parents who want to resolve a dispute without the delay and expense of the court process. It allows parents to engage in a flexible process, with complete confidentiality, and the knowledge that a decision will be made. To find out more visit IFLA | Institute of Family Law Arbitrators
Travel out of the UK
Don’t forget, if you are travelling to a Country outside of the United Kingdom and if there is no Child Arrangements Order in place, you cannot take the child/children out of the United Kingdom without the consent of the other parent. Therefore, if holidays are to include foreign travel, you will also need to discuss the timing of the handing over of passports and permission letters that may be required (depending on the country of travel).