15 May Summer Holidays: How to Approach Contact Arrangements
It’s that time of year when the summer holidays are fast approaching for parents both in England and overseas. For separated families this can be a particularly stressful time as it often involves parents having to sort out arrangements for their children including how much time their child will spend with each of them, additional child care costs and whether a parent should be able to travel with their child overseas. If communicated successfully, proposals can be agreed and the school holidays can run smoothly for both parents and the children. However, if parents are unable to agree on arrangements for the school holidays, real conflict can ensue which is extremely stressful not just for mum and dad but most importantly for the children caught in the middle.
As family solicitors, we use our legal expertise to advise parents as to the principles in family law which govern arrangements for children. This could include whether a young child should travel overseas with a parent or how their time should be shared. Ultimately, in every case the child’s welfare is paramount. With a high proportion of cases that we are asked to advise upon, the issues between the parents in relation to the summer holidays do not raise allegations of risk of harm to a child, but rather the parents simply having differing views about what is in the child’s best interests. In these cases, as family solicitors we have to give individuals realistic advice about potential outcomes if parents are not able to reach an agreement.
Our first step is to explain to the client what their options are when trying to resolve issues surrounding the school holidays and this would ordinarily include:
- Having direct discussions with their ex-partner, preferably in a neutral place e.g. over coffee;
- Engaging with a family mediator who will facilitate discussions between the parties, most likely round a table as an impartial third party professional;
- Arranging a round table meeting between both parties and their respective solicitors should the parties wish for the process to be solicitor led. This can be organised through collaboratively trained lawyers if both parties wish;
- Traditional correspondence and telephone communication between solicitors on behalf of the parties.
- As a last resort the parties can apply to Court for a child arrangements order, but only after attending an initial mediation information and assessment meeting unless exceptional circumstances apply.
Having explained the available options, we will explore with the individual which option best suits their needs and individual circumstances.
At Consilia Legal, all of our family solicitors are also trained mediators and therefore we have first-hand experience of helping separated couples through the family mediation process, and witnessing the benefits that can be achieved for the whole family. We do however also know that mediation may not be suitable for every case. Hence, we make sure that all options are clearly explored with the client at the outset.
TIP THIS SUMMER: Our one tip for every separated family this summer would be, if you haven’t already, to communicate with your ex-partner as soon as possible about arrangements for your children over the summer holidays. Early communication can avoid unnecessary conflict and stress for the whole family.
If you feel you need some assistance with sorting out arrangements for your children this summer, our family specialists would be happy to arrange an initial telephone or face to face appointment. Please contact Laura Clapton or Sarah Manning for more details on 0113 322 9222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.