Just as life changes when you get married, on divorce, it changes again. This is particularly the case if there are children from the relationship. With the long summer holiday coming up, you may be realising that the 6 week holiday period can be a bit of a minefield. You need to balance your wishes for the holidays with those of your former partner. You may both want to take the children away. You may also need to make arrangements for the times when you are not away, to ensure child care if you are working while the children are off school. While every situation is different, we’ve brought together some top tips to help you negotiate the school holidays after divorce.
- Be organised
Make sure you have your children’s holiday dates well in advance and let your ex know what they are. Think about any child care arrangements you may need to put in place to cover times when you are working, and research what’s available. Talk to your ex about when you want to go on holiday with the children – otherwise you may find you have both planned to take the same weeks off. Not only will this make it difficult for you both to take the children away – if that’s what you have planned – it may make it harder to source childcare for the rest of the holiday period when you are both supposed to be working.
- Plan ahead
It pays to think ahead about the school holiday periods. There will be 6 weeks or so over the summer when your children won’t be at school. It’s an issue for every working family, but can be harder to manage for divorced parents. And you can be as organised as you like, but if the organisation happens at the last minute, the chances are it may all fall apart if your plans and those of your ex don’t fit together nicely.
- Think about finances
Holiday periods can bring additional financial responsibilities into play – costs of child care being a major consideration.
- Be upfront
Just as you might feel concerned about your ex taking your children away, particularly if they are planning to go abroad, so your ex might feel concerned about your plans. If you are upfront about where you are going and what you are planning on doing, you may alleviate these concerns and make the process of agreeing holiday arrangements run more smoothly. Information sharing such as providing contact details is a good idea and can help everyone feel more at ease.
- Offer reassurance
In some situations, even a short holiday abroad may arouse anxiety and suspicion. For example, if your ex has family living in a different country and there is any suggestion that he or she is not being upfront about the length of the holiday or their intentions in respect of returning, you would be right to seek further assurances. Equally, if you are the one with family abroad, you should seek to reassure the other parent that you do intend to return with the children. This is an area in which you may need to take specific legal advice if you are worried, particularly if the country concerned is not a signatory of the 1996 Hague Convention.
- Agree contact
If your children will be with your ex for 1 or 2 weeks, it’s natural that you will miss them and want to have contact with them. On the other hand, the other parent needs quality time with his or her children too. If you call frequently but can’t get hold of your children, this may increase your anxiety unnecessarily. If you interrupt the holiday too often you may make the other parent resentful, and could even upset your children. Agreeing telephone or email contact during the time your children are away is a good way to manage this. There’s less of an issue with older children who have their own phones – but be aware that constant texts or calls may still be disruptive of the holiday.
- Be compliant
It goes without saying that if there are any orders in place in relation to the children, you must ensure that your holiday plans comply with the contents of those orders. Remember that if there is a child arrangements order in place, the child cannot leave the UK for more than a month unless all those with parental responsibility agree in writing. In reality, most people will be contemplating a shorter break, whether in the UK or abroad, but for those with plans for a longer break, make sure you aren’t in danger of acting unlawfully.
- Communicate and discuss
If you can communicate and discuss plans, you are more likely to reach an agreement over holiday arrangements. Undoubtedly, there may need to be compromise on both sides, but if you can reach agreement relatively amicably, you are far more likely to enjoy the holidays and extended time with the children.
- Legal action as a last resort
As with every aspect of a relationship breakdown, the more you can agree with your former partner in respect of school holidays, the easier life will be for everybody concerned. However, if you really can’t come to a consensus, it is possible to seek a specific issue order through the courts to deal with the problems the holidays present.
- Enjoy the time
With and without the children around – the new world of your post-divorce situation may not always be easy but holiday times give you the opportunity to spend more time with your children – and also potentially a longer period without them. You will miss them – but it can also give you an opportunity to focus on yourself for a time, leaving you refreshed for when you can welcome them back.
At Thomas Mansfield Family Law, we specialise in providing practical legal advice to help you through all aspects of family law, and divorce. If you are struggling to finalise arrangements for the forthcoming school holidays with your ex, call us for a chat – 020 3504 4951 – and we’ll see how we can help you.