Making arrangements to take your children on holiday when you are separated from their other parent is another potential personal and legal minefield.
Holidays are a flashpoint – they are a time when one parent gets to spend 100% of the time with the child and the other parent has a significant gap during which they cannot see them.
They can come with emotional baggage such as jealousy – “why can s/he take them away when I can’t afford to do so”; the involvement of new partners and new partner’s children and the thought of your children being far away, potentially in another country.
However there are some simple rules to follow to make things easier but the first and most important rule is to discuss your holiday plans with the other party well in advance – probably 3-4 months before.
The issues to discuss are:-
When the children are to be away – family diaries are busy things and the children may benefit from their holidays being, for example, at other ends of the summer and not side by side
Where – this can be extremely important as there are rules relating to the children leaving the UK (see below) but there are simple issues such as making sure the other parent knows where there children are. There are also potential issues with the children’s passports.
How long – a fortnight may be fine for a teenager but may be too long for a small child who may miss their mum/dad
Who is going – if a new partner and/or their children, has the other parent met them, do they know anything about them and whether they are safe for the children to be around?
Contact – practical arrangements need to be made for the children to be able to contact their mum/dad – this could be phone/Skype and/or Facebook.
Insurance – are the children covered for medical treatment abroad?
Emergencies – how can each parent be contacted in an emergency?
Legalities of the holiday country – for example border control may require a letter from the other parent. This is something a travel agent would advise upon but check if you are an independent traveller
What happens when parents simply can’t agree the arrangements for a holiday?
For example, perhaps one parent wants to take the child on holiday abroad and the other parent has the passports and won’t agree.
In this situation an application to the court for a specific issue order can be made. To allow time for this is one of the primary reasons for starting your discussions early.
In most cases if the court has not been involved with the children before neither parent can take the children out of the UK without the consent of the other parent.
The main exception to this is if the court has been involved previously and there is a Residence or Child Arrangements (live with) Order: in that case the parent with the benefit of the Order (and the children therefore living with them) can leave the UK for a period of up to a month without the other parties consent.
If the holiday can’t be agreed and an application for a specific issue Order is made, the Judge has to decide what is in the best interests of the children and, in most cases, a week on holiday is not likely to cause problems.
Sometimes however the judge may say a holiday would not be a good thing for children, and that the negatives of the holiday outweigh the positives.
If the destination is unusual – for example one of those countries where there are Home Office concerns about safety or the country is not a member of the Hague Convention (which provides a mechanism to return a child to its usual country of residence) then take immediate specialist legal advice whether you are the parent wishing to take the children away or the parent remaining in the UK.
To speak to an experienced family lawyer, call Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.