Parental disputes over Children’s Vacations following Divorce and Separation.
With the holiday season upon us and the long school holiday looming many families are looking forward to their long awaited annual holiday with much excitement. This is particularly evident this year after the previous two years of restricted travel.
However, for many separated and divorced couples holidays can be a time of contention and disagreement, not only as to the location and duration of vacations but Covid has added another area of contention particularly if testing and/or vaccinations are required for children.
It is essential that communication is open between both parents and that the children are actually included in any conversation. The majority of children are likely to be excited by the prospect of their holiday and eagerly look forward to it. However, if they are aware of one parent’s anxiety or anger over it this may cause them anxiety as they try to appease both parents. Any holiday should be planned with the best interests of the children in mind and it is important that they do not become a battleground with both parents trying to compete in who can provide the best holiday. This is particularly important in the current economic climate where one parent may be in better financial position.
It is early days but with the new ‘blameless’ divorce it is anticipated that the whole process will prove to be less acrimonious and hopefully this will cascade down and there will be less friction involving the children.
If there are serious disagreements and parents cannot resolve these without legal intervention there are various options open to them but the primary action has to be to communicate and try to resolve the dispute amicably. If this cannot be achieved then it may be that the matter has to be taken to the Family court for a decision. .
This is dealt with by way of a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibitive Steps Order. This can be done on an urgent basis if the holiday or vaccination is coming up in the near future. The process will include a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), to ascertain whether the issue could be best solved outside of the court. This could involve engaging in a range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. It is advisable to consider alternative methods from the court applications, particularly at the moment it can prove difficult to secure timely appointments. If you manage to settle the dispute it is worth applying to the court for a consent order to reflect that agreement
When coming to a decision, the court’s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the child(ren). The court will hear and analyse the evidence of both parties. Without a good reason for opposing a holiday which can be backed up by sufficient evidence, and in the absence of any safeguarding concerns, the court is likely to grant permission for the holiday to take place.
Once the court has made a decision it will then be binding on both parties.
Prohibited Steps Orders and Specific Issue Orders can, of course, be utilised in other Children Act matters and if you would like advice on any aspect of Children Act matters or family law telephone 01279 799598 or email
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