Making arrangements for the school holidays – simple ways to make this easier to discuss with your ex partner
Managing half term and school holiday arrangements can be difficult when you remain in a parenting relationship but it is often even harder when you are separated. With half term fast approaching and the summer holidays following shortly after, you should start to consider holiday plans and childcare arrangements now in the hope of avoiding last minute difficulties. We would always recommend that parents work together to discuss plans for the children, focusing on what will enable the children to have the most fun and best quality time with each parent but we recognise this can be a challenge for some. Nevertheless, adopting clear communication and offering some flexibility can be key to easing the process.
The first step is agreeing how the holiday periods will be divided between you. We set out some of the most common arrangements below. It is useful to have the school term dates and a calendar when agreeing the arrangements to ensure you take into account matters such as inset days and bank holidays whilst also considering the exact length of the longer school holidays as these fluctuate a little depending on when key dates in the year fall.
- For some it is more straightforward for the term time arrangements to continue during the shorter half term holidays and then consider the longer holidays separately;
- some opt to split each of the half term breaks in half so that they can both enjoy some time with the child(ren) on each occasion;
- some choose to alternate the half terms so they have the option to take a holiday. This means that one year you would have two of the three half terms and the next year you would have only one of the half terms; and
- where there is a significant distance between parents, it might be appropriate for the non-resident parent to have all of the half terms breaks to help split the time during which they wouldn’t see the child(ren) owing to the unreasonable travel for weekends.
Summer / Christmas / Easter
- It is perhaps most common for the main school holidays to be divided equally on dates to be agreed each year but with the festival days being alternated so that the child(ren) get an opportunity to celebrate these days with each of their parents; and
- for some, regularity of the arrangements may suit all parties better so, for example, the same parent might have weeks 1, 3 and 5 of the summer holidays each year so they know what they can plan for. This is often referred to as ‘week on / week off’.
For those parents with work responsibilities, it will then be necessary to consider additional childcare arrangements. If this applies to you, don’t forget to discuss holiday clubs and how the costs will be met and who will be responsible for drop-off / pick-up duties.
Once you have agreed the time division, no doubt you will start thinking about perhaps booking a holiday.
For those of you intending to holiday in England and Wales, you do not need consent of the other parent to travel. You should, of course, ensure that the other parent has the details of where you are staying and the dates of the trip. The same should apply with you receiving details of any trips the other parent wishes to take with the children.
The rules are a little more complicated if you wish to travel outside of England and Wales (referred to as travelling ‘out of the jurisdiction’). We have assumed for the purposes of this article that if you are the father of the child(ren) that you are named on their birth certificate or have been granted Parental Responsibility. If you are unsure whether you have Parental Responsibility you should seek specific legal advice about this.
Do you have a Child Arrangements Order from the court?
No? You will need the consent of the other parent to travel.
Are you named as someone with whom the child(ren) ‘lives’?
Yes? You do not need consent from the other parent to travel as long as you return within 28 days (or within the terms of the time your child(ren) live with you if this is shorter than 28 days.
No? If you are named as someone the child(ren) ‘spends time with’ then you will need consent of the other parent to travel.
Practically, you should ask for their confirmation in writing, either an email or text will usually be sufficient. It is worth checking the immigration rules for where you are travelling as some countries require proof of consent in a specific form before the child(ren) will be allowed to pass through immigration. As indicated above, your holiday should be taken within the dates the child(ren) are to be with you. If you wish to take a longer holiday than is provided for, you will need the consent of the other parent to change the arrangements for the children. In this situation you should also make arrangements for the children to spend time with their other parent on your return.
There may be additional worries to do with the ongoing risk of COVID-19. Sharing as much information as early as possible with the other parent should help to alleviate concerns and reassure them that necessary precautions will be taken.
If you are struggling to come to an agreement, mediation can be a good route to discuss the options and any concerns. Alternatively, your solicitor can set out your proposals in a letter. Ultimately, if the other parent refuses to engage in conversations or you fail to reach an agreement, you might need to consider making an application to the court or potentially consider the use of arbitration.
If you have any questions about how you should approach childcare arrangements for the upcoming holidays or any other issues in relation to your children, please contact a member of our specialist family and matrimonial team who will be happy to assist you.