Making arrangements to take your children on holiday after a divorce is not always plain sailing, but there are some simple rules to follow to make things easier.
School’s out for the summer. If not booked already, then a holiday, either close to home or on a foreign shore, is likely being planned. But it is not always plain sailing if you are separated or divorced from the mother or father of your children. So what should you do if your ex is causing problems over holiday arrangements?
These tips for divorced and separated parents might help
The first thing to do is always tell the other party in advance what your proposals are. You don’t want to have a situation where you both book holiday time at the same time. Ideally, you should be discussing holidays at least two months in advance.
The next question is what information you will provide to the other party about the holiday. As most parents will have parental responsibility for their children, they have a right to know where the children are. As an absolute minimum, you should tell the other parent where you are going, where you will be staying and how they can contact you in an emergency. Obviously, the times and dates of when you are travelling are important also.
One question I often get asked is: how will I know the children are safe? Ideally if you are concerned about holiday arrangements and the children's safety, you will speak to the other parent in advance about what worries you have so that some safeguards can be put in place. In the same breath, the parent who is taking the children away needs to be able to have quality time with the children. Having an absent parent constantly ringing them is likely to make the children anxious, raise tensions between parents either during the holiday or upon the return home, and could spoil the trip completely. Perhaps agree a time and date when the children can speak, but limit this to once or twice a week.
What happens when parents simply can’t agree a holiday? For instance, perhaps one parent wants to take the child on holiday abroad and the other parent has the passports and won’t agree. In this case, you can apply for what is called a specific issue order. This is an order of the court dealing with a specific set of facts and limited to one narrow point. The ultimate question that the court has to decide is what is in the best interests of the children and, as I said earlier, a week in Tenerife is not likely to cause problems. Some single parents might enjoy the break from the children more than taking them away!
It is not very often that the court will say a holiday with their mother or father is not going to be a good thing for children, but there will be times when concerns may be raised. If either parent has family in the country they are visiting, for instance, as this can lead to worries about the parent returning home. What if the country they are travelling to is not a member of the Hague Convention (the international legislation dealing with how laws relating to children interact) or what if the country is a dangerous country to travel to? In those cases, strict safeguards need to be put in place and again as long as these issues have been talked about in advance there should not be any problems.
The truth is that holidays are almost always good things for children. Unfortunately it’s very often the difficulties between the parents that are the biggest hurdle to overcome, not foreign food or finding your missing baggage.
Family solicitor, Warwickshire