by Charlotte Gannon, Solicitor, Family Law
Email – CGannon@LawBlacks.com, T – 0113 322 2852, Twitter – @CGLawBlacks
It’s that time of year when we’re all dusting off our buckets and spades and getting ready for the long summer holidays. However, what happens if you are separated and have yet to agree how your children will spend their summer?
You might want to use this time to discuss your children’s arrangements over summer and practical issues such as:
- Your respective work commitments
- The children’s planned activities
- Handover of their passports (if there is agreement to travel abroad)
To avoid any misunderstandings, you may also want to agree a timetable specifically for the holidays which might include the division of childcare responsibilities and looking at ways in which the children can spend quality time with both of you. If agreement can’t be reached directly between you, whilst there is the option of applying to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order, the Court won’t usually list a Hearing until about six weeks after the Application is received (unless a more urgent Hearing is warranted).
However, you could seek advice and assistance from a solicitor who can correspond with the other party on your behalf, or engage in a Round Table Meeting. You could also use an alternative form of dispute resolution, such as Mediation.
Try and approach the topic of foreign holidays (outside of England and Wales) as early as possible to ensure that agreement can be reached in sufficient time for you to conclude your travel plans. If your plans include a holiday abroad, you will need the written consent(s) of everyone who has Parental Responsibility before you travel and will need to take the written consent(s) with you to the airport.
If you travel without the correct consents, you could be committing a criminal offence. However, this restriction doesn’t apply if there’s already a Child Arrangements Order in place which names you as the person the children live as (unless there are restrictions within the Order) you are permitted to take the children out of the country for up to 28 days without the need for consent. When agreement can’t be reached, whilst Court shouldn’t be your first port of call, you will need an Order from the Court known as a Specific Issue Order to be able to travel.
Depending upon the circumstances you might be able to apply on an urgent basis, and being able to provide the Court with details of your intended trip will assist the Court in making their decision. Your children’s welfare will be paramount when the Court considers what Order to make. If the other party is aware that you are intending to travel without their consent or Court Order, they could apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order to try and prevent you travelling with the children.
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It’s best practice to share flight and accommodation details with the other parent so that they feel reassured regarding your holiday plans.
In addition, if the holiday will result in the other parent missing out on time that they’d usually spend with the children, you might also want to consider how this could be made up before or after the holiday.
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