How can I prepare for the summer holidays as a separated parent?

3rd July 2023

The summer holidays, for any parent, are an annual event that require the three p’s – planning, preparation and patience! For separated parents, this can apply even more so when trying to negotiate and agree the time spent with their child or children.

Complying with existing Child Arrangements Orders (CAO)

Often, where there is a CAO already in place, there may be provision for the arrangements during the school holidays. The arrangements may be specifically prescribed or loosely defined, e.g. the child is to spend an equal amount of time with each parent during the school holidays. This would therefore still require communication and negotiation between the parents.

For separated families without a CAO in place, parents need to agree the arrangements between themselves. Depending on the relationship between them, this can be stressful and complicated. It may even cause conflict between them which could impact on the children emotionally.

The summer holidays, particularly for families with school age children, are often prime time for family holidays, sometimes abroad. This may be another area of contention between separated parents. Where a CAO is in force and it specifies who a child is to live with, that person may take them out of the UK for a holiday for up to one month without the consent of the other people with parental responsibility (PR) for that child. People with PR that are not named as the person with whom a child is to live, will need to have the consent of the other person/people with PR for the child though. Where there is no CAO in place, parents or other people wanting to take a child out of the UK on holiday will need to get the consent of all people with PR for the child. Our recent article offers a more general overview on PR and avoiding disputes after divorce.

Tips for splitting time between parents

In circumstances where a child shares their time between parents, the six week summer holidays could be split into blocks of two-week with each parent and two one week blocks. A week on / week off basis is also common and occasionally, particularly where parents wish to spend an extended break abroad, two three-week blocks often work well.

If the time a child spends with one parent is more occasional generally, e.g. daytime contact only, one day a fortnight, one day a week, etc. it may be in the child’s best interests to maintain the status quo during the school holidays and stay with the normal arrangement that is in place during school term time.

The aim of the Family Court is always to achieve an arrangement that is in the child’s best interests, taking into account various factors set out in the ‘Welfare Checklist’ which can be found in Section 1 of The Children Act 1989. The first consideration is the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, considered in the light of his/her age and understanding. Therefore, when figuring out what contact or time a child spends with each of their parents during the summer holiday, the child’s own wishes may be a helpful indication.

Parenting plans can be a really useful tool for parents to agree and set out the arrangements for a child generally or specifically in relation to the summer holidays. There is a helpful plan that can be completed on the Cafcass website.

You can read more about parenting plans generally and discussion around the best time to complete one, here.

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