July 17, 2015

How to manage summer holidays post-divorce

Family holidays are challenging to arrange at the best of times – and post-divorce or separation they become even more complex.

In the countdown to schools breaking up for the summer, below are a series of frequently asked questions and answers to help guide you through the dos and don’ts of split holiday planning.

Do I need my ex partners permission before taking my children on holiday?

If you are planning on going away for longer than a month – or over a period when your ex-spouse would normally have contact with the children – then you will need to ask their permission.

If the holiday is shorter than a month, and will not interfere with the other parent’s usual shared arrangements and you have a child arrangements order in your favour stating that the child’s residence is with you, then you are not legally required to ask permission – although it is good practice to do so.

We also recommend that when travelling abroad with your children, you carry written permission from their other parent. Indeed, some countries will not allow a lone parent to enter with a child without the written agreement of the absent parent. Where there are complicating factors, such as your surname being different to your children, we also suggest that you carry a copy of their birth certificate and your marriage/divorce license.

If my ex consents to the holiday, what information about our break do I have to give?

In most cases both parents will have legal Parental Responsibility, and as such, each parent should inform the other regarding their holiday plans. This will include details about where you are staying and the holiday dates – as well as how they can contact you and the children in the case of an emergency.

Would it be a good idea for me and my ex to discuss holiday details face-to-face?

As champions of non-confrontational family law, we encourage that parents get together and plan timings for forthcoming trips.

Very often one parent will book holidays without any reference to their estranged partner. Reviewing diaries avoids surprise announcements and prevents situations where a child flies home with one parent to then embark on another holiday with the other parent on either the same day or the following day – without having time to catch up with friends, girl/boyfriends or extended families.

Another meeting before the holiday is also beneficial because it enables separated parents to re-engage and remind each other of vital details such as their child/children’s interests, likes and dislikes and food allergies.

These sessions reinforce the importance of making holidays – and the lead up to them – as exciting, inclusive and special as possible for their offspring.

We would also suggest that while on holiday, a parent encourages their child/children to send photographs, texts, and postcards – to the absent father or mother.

Such gestures are not only positive for the well-being of the siblings – they also convey mutual understanding that the parent at home will sorely miss their children and will value hearing from them.

What if my ex refuses permission?

You will need to make what is called a Specific Issues application to the court and tell them why you want to take the children away, who will be going with you, where you plan on staying – and what provisions you will make for contact between the children and their other parent.

What is a Specific Issues application?

As the name implies, it is a court order that deals with a singular specific issue. Either parent can make a Specific Issue application to the court on an issue that concerns parental responsibility, such as going abroad on holiday, particulars of the children’s upbringing, and what school the children will attend.

Are the courts likely to rule in my favour?

The court will always decide what is in the best interest of the child. A simple family holiday is unlikely to be refused. However, there are times when legitimate concerns are raised, such as if you are travelling abroad and have family in the country you are visiting, or if the country is not a member of the Hague Convention (the international legislation that includes laws concerning the abduction of children). If there is any doubt as to whether or not you will return to the UK, then the application will likely be refused.

If the other parent is refusing permission because they are worried you will not return with the children, it may be helpful to agree to provide the court with an Undertaking. The Undertaking can set out the fact that you promise the other parent and the court to bring the children back to the UK on a specific date and this may reassure the other parent of your intention to return. It is like a legal promise. Breaching an Undertaking is very serious and means you are in contempt of court, and liable to sanctions from the court – including a fine or even imprisonment.

If you would like further advice on taking your children abroad this summer, please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail. You can also follow us on Twitter at @helpwithdivorce