As we get closer to the school summer holidays people's thoughts will be turning to trips to the seaside and holidays abroad. It's also this time of year when solicitors start getting enquiries from divorced and separated parents about being able to take their children away on holiday.
If you are a parent who doesn’t have your children living with you all the time you may feel you have to jump through hoops to get the agreement of your ex. But try and look at it from their point of view. The thought of not having the children in their care can be a big concern for some parents, especially those who look after the children the majority of the time.
You will need agreement, so start planning early
The trick is always to discuss the issues early. If you are the non-resident parent and have plans to take the children away, you need to discuss this with the other parent as soon as possible. Ideally it would be at least 3 months in advance of the holiday. You need to have details of when you are planning to travel, where you are planning to travel to and also who else might be coming with you on the holiday.
Make sure you get something from your former partner, preferably in writing, stating that they are in agreement with your plans. If you book and pay for the holiday before you have the agreement, then you might end up losing out if the other parent has already booked their holiday at the same time.
As you get closer to the holiday date provide details of the hotel you're staying at, flight numbers and an emergency contact number just in case. It's also worth agreeing a time and date when the children can speak with the other parent. All of this is good parenting, but it will also put the other parent’s mind at rest and could help prevent any dispute.
Agree in advance when you will drop the children off at the end of the holiday and make sure you return everything with them, including most important of all the children's passports.
You can apply for a Court order, if all else fails
This all assumes that holidays will be agreed but sometimes the parent who is the main carer will try to refuse to allow the other parent to take the children away. In this situation you may need to make an application to the Court for a Specific Issue Order. In all cases involving children proceedings, unless it is an emergency, you will need to attend mediation to see if you can agree things without having to go to court. This is why giving at least 3 months notice is recommended because then you will have time to make the referral to mediation and if necessary apply to the court.
It is unusual for the court to refuse a parent the opportunity to take children away on holiday providing it is in the best interests of the children. If you're planning to take the children away for a week to Majorca, after going to Dorset the year before, and you have the dates, flights and hotel already reserved then it is going to be a harsh court that says the children can't go because there is little risk of harm to a child in having a fun holiday with a parent. The court might want you to produce copies of your return tickets, and the court has in some cases directed that a parent should pay a form of bail deposit which is returnable once the children are back with the other parent but for the most part the children get to have a great time on holiday and the other parent has a well-earned break.
Family law solicitor, Coventry