How to navigate summer holidays when you are a family with separated parents
With the school summer holidays fast approaching, one thing that no doubt most people are looking forward to is a nice break.
However, for families with separated parents, the upcoming school holidays may prove to be fraught with tensions regarding contacting arrangements for the children. How long will the children spend with each parent? Who will pick the children up and drop them off? Will the children be taken on holiday abroad? These are just a few of the decisions that many parents will face throughout the summer holidays.
In an ideal world, these issues would be easily agreed between parents; however, child contact arrangements can often become contentious. The children are the most important factor when deciding on these arrangements. Where appropriate ask the children for their opinion, however, be careful not to place pressure on them. Ensure that any discussions regarding the arrangements are done so away from the children, unless it is appropriate to involve them (age dependent).
At Parslows, our family law team is experienced in dealing with all sorts of family disputes, including disputes regarding contact arrangements for the summer holidays including, taking children out of the Island on holiday. To assist you, we have prepared this short guide to try and keep things from boiling over.
Start planning as soon possible
Like most things in life, it pays to plan in advance. Draw up a list of all the school holidays and try to find agreement as early as possible regarding when you might like to take the children away or look after them during the holidays. Most co-parents have the additional challenge of having to secure time off from work, so it really does pay to plan in advance.
When you have children together, there will always be a need to communicate with your ex-partner. It often helps if parents are able to find an effective method of communication through which child arrangements can be organised such as via email or text messages.
Our family team at Parslows have found that the Our Family Wizard App is an effective alternative to text message or email communication because the app allows all communication, contact schedules and expenses to be logged in one place. The Our Family Wizard message board also gives co-parents a secure platform for communication to be sent between them with the knowledge that messages can never be edited, deleted or retracted.
If you are currently struggling with communicating and making contact arrangements for the children with your ex-partner, you may want to suggest using this application.
If you have plans for a summer holiday abroad, it is entirely reasonable for the other parent to want to know what your plans are and where you plan to take them on holiday. The Court will generally agree with this point of view and expect you to tell the other parent where the children will be staying, dates and times of travel and how to get in touch with them in a time of emergency.
As part of your divorce or separation, you may have set times agreed with your ex-parent regarding contact with the children. A two week summer holiday is quite likely to have an impact on this, so it is therefore very important that both sides try to remain flexible.
If both parents have set times when they are allowed leave from work then it may also be the case that holiday arrangements will overlap. If this is the case, try to take a step back from a possible disagreement and accept that it may not always be possible to get what you want and that it may be better for the children if you can find a compromise.
We have found that some clients find it best to share the holidays and take the children away for one week each. This way both parents get a holiday and the children get two.
Document arrangements in writing
Regardless of how child arrangements are reached, a key factor for ensuring the long-term success of the proposed arrangements is to document them in writing. The more detail that can be included (e.g. times, dates and location) the better. Planning in this way ensures transparency and provides both parents with the certainty they need to enable them to look to the summer holidays with excitement, rather than apprehension. Again, the Our Family Wizard App is a great place to start.
If all else fails …
Mediation is a great resource to enable parents to voice concerns in a neutral setting and where assistance is provided to facilitate the parents to reach an amicable agreement. The Court actively encourages the use of mediation in such situations.
Alternatively, negotiations can also be undertaken through lawyers’ correspondence, which often assists parents in viewing their dispute with objectivity.
A last resort is to apply to the court. This would need to be done well in advance, as you do not wish to be involved in the Court process so close to the Summer holidays, taking away from all the fun which could be best spent with your children. The Court is also very busy at this time of year, so it is best not to leave applications until the last minute.