Holiday times are not always good times. By holidays, I do not mean sandy beaches, sangria and swimming, on this occasion, but rather when the children are off school and families are able to spend more time together as parents have a few days off work.
With Easter upon us, that time is here again and it is not going to be easy for everyone, particularly younger children whose parents are separated or divorced. But there are things that parents can do to make this holiday pass without trauma, to make time spent with the absent parent as painless as possible and to ensure the kids concerned make the most of their Easter holiday.
The first thing to do is ensure in advance that everyone is aware of who is doing what, and when. It might be that grandparents are taking the children away, it might be that the absent parent is taking them for a day out, or it might be they are going to stay with the non-resident parent for a few days. Whichever it is, make sure everyone is clear on the details, where people are going to be and how to contact them. Send a text the night before any pick-up/drop-off just to make sure everyone is aware. The further in advance you plan this, the better – so start thinking about Whitsun and the summer now! This can avoid a major point of confrontation between estranged partners that can put a damper of the youngster’s holidays.
The second thing to remember is “be prepared”! This is not only relevant to the non-resident parent for whom having a youngster, or youngsters, stay at their house is not an everyday occurrence and so they need to get extra bits in. One pint of milk will not last you the week, snacks will need to be stocked up, do you have some entertainment planned and have you sorted where they are sleeping? A put-up bed may be OK for the odd night but less likely to make the child feel at home if it is for a longer period.
It can also be that the parent with whom the kids normally reside has to amend their daily arrangements, and their shopping order, to accommodate the holiday change too.
Finally, do you have parental responsibility for the children concerned? What this means is that, in the eyes of the law, you have the rights and responsibility for making decisions for your children. For instance, this could be if they need emergency medical treatment, or giving you access to school reports and the right to be at parent evenings. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility, as does the father married to the mother, irrespective of whether the marriage occurred before or after the birth of the child. Unmarried fathers of children whose birth was registered on or after 1 December 2003 also have parental responsibility, provided they are named on the birth certificate.
Fathers of children whose birth is registered before that date who haven’t acquired parental responsibility by virtue of marriage, or unmarried fathers of children whose birth is registered after that date, and are not named as father on the child’s birth certificate, do not automatically have parental responsibility. Step-parents also do not have this responsibility.
However, for those wanting to acquire it, it is a fairly simple process involving entering into a voluntary Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or obtaining a Child Arrangements Order from the court. An experienced family law specialist will be able to advise on this.
So get planning, be prepared and ensure you are responsible in order to enjoy a less stressful school holiday with the kids and your ex!