Family Law Blog

Child Arrangements at Christmas and Beyond

With the Christmas holidays upon us many parents have been busy planning for the festive period, whether that be arranging a foreign trip or outings for the children. But for many separated parents these arrangements can be a bone of contention and agreement is not easily reached.

It is always encouraged that, where possible, parents themselves agree the time their children spend with each of them. If this is not possible, mediation is another option. Court proceedings are a last resort as they can be expensive and stressful for all involved. It is also important to be aware that the courts have a reluctance to get involved with such matters as it is generally thought that parents are the best people to make decisions about their children.

There is now a presumption in law that both parents are involved in the upbringing of their children. It is therefore very difficult for one parent to be excluded from their child’s life and the court gives short shrift to parents trying to exclude the other from their children’s lives. The child’s time with their parents is their right and not the right of the parents. This should be considered when any arrangements are made.

In terms of trips abroad, it is important to be aware that unless there is a Child Arrangements ‘lives with’ order in force (the old Residence Order) in favour of the parent who is to take the child abroad, that parent cannot remove their child from the country without written consent from everyone that has parental responsibility. So, in most cases the other parent will need to provide their written consent. If the other parent refuses to give consent it may be necessary for an application to be made to the court to determine this issue. This is known as a Specific Issue Order.

If it becomes necessary to make an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order or indeed a Specific Issue Order, a mediation requirement must be satisfied before an application is made. That person will need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to determine whether mediation is appropriate for them. There are exceptions namely; that the matter is urgent and the delay would create a risk to the child or if there are welfare concerns which would render mediation inappropriate.

If you are faced with a situation where you cannot agree the arrangements for your child(ren), then it is important to obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity whether this is in relation to child arrangements at Christmas, the summer holidays or beyond.  Please contact Hollie Foreman at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors on 020 3811 2894.