Co-Parenting through the Summer Holidays
The sun is shining and the summer holidays are in sight! This is an exciting time for many. However, for some families, the summer holidays are a difficult time to navigate as they can bring a change to normal arrangements and routine, whether parents are separated or not.
For separated parents though, an added challenge is likely to be making plans to fit with the holidays. This can be especially problematic for parents who have difficulty communicating or who aren't prepared for extended periods of time with or without their children.
Holidays can be divided by agreement between parents as they see fit; there is no hard and fast rule! Often, the parent who spends less time with the children during term time then spends more time with them during holidays. Of course though, this does not work for everyone.
The following tips may be useful when considering and discussing changes to arrangements:
Being the 'main carer' of the children (however that may be defined) shouldn't mean that the children don't get to spend adequate amounts of time with their other parent. In English law, parents with Parental Responsibility have the same rights and responsibilities, even when the children spend unequal time with them.
Holidays, particularly in the summer, provide an opportunity for the children to spend more time with non-resident parent (if applicable) when they would otherwise be at school and unavailable. It is worth considering this as a starting point if it could work for all involved.
In general terms, it is the children that have the right to good quality time with both parents and extended family. Ideally, parents need to consider the arrangements from the child's perspective and think what it will be like for them, before committing to any details.
The law encourages parents to come to arrangements between them and the Court will only intervene if it is absolutely necessary. There is also a degree of expectation that parents are able and willing to communicate in the best interests of their children. Both parents attempting to reasonably discuss holiday contact is far better for all involved as often, the Court will order arrangements that neither parent would have wanted.
If communication is difficult, there are various parenting apps available online. These apps remove any unnecessary communication and assist with interaction between parents.
Family dispute experts including the Family Mediation Council, are urging separated parents to make plans in advance for the holidays. Making arrangements sooner rather than later will not only allow both parents (and any extended family) to plan their time with the children but will also offer peace of mind.
More importantly though, the children will know their plans ahead of time and will be able to relax and be excited for the holidays ahead, rather than worry about them.
It also means that if any unexpected issues arise, there is ample time to resolve these and re-arrange any plans if necessary.
There are often situations where parents are unable to agree to contact arrangements, sometimes not through lack of trying. Having these conversations early allows for the parents to seek assistance where an agreement cannot be reached. Mediation is a helpful process to assist in these discussions, without the Court having to make decisions for the parents. Where it's appropriate, children can be involved in mediation which might help finalise any arrangements made. It is important though to not make it their decision or suggest that they choose.
At Band Hatton Button, our lawyers are all members of Resolution - First for Family Law and will help you resolve matters in a conciliatory way. We also have an Accredited Family Mediator who can assist with all types of Family Mediation.