Summer Holiday Arrangements After Separation

Making arrangements for the long summer holidays can be a headache for busy parents. Making sure you have child care whilst you are working, thinking up day trips and other activities to keep them occupied and planning what will usually be the year's main holiday all take time and thought. But if you and your former partner are separated it can all be that much more difficult.

Following separation or divorce, you need to put aside your own problems and try to agree the arrangements for your children. As parents, you are best placed to decide issues such as where your children will live and how they will share their time between you. There is no set formula, because every family is different. In the vast majority of cases there will be no court order - it is up to you to do what you both think is right in your own particular family circumstances.

Reducing Tension and Disagreement

The key to reducing tension and disagreement is communication and planning ahead. This is particularly important when it comes to holidays, as they will nearly always involve a change to the normal pattern that is in place. The school holidays are of course fixed well before the academic year starts and that's the perfect time to discuss with your ex how they are going to be shared between you. Hopefully, there will be no problem but, if there is going to be a disagreement, the sooner you know about it the more time you will have to resolve it.

Too often people leave it too late or just go ahead and book without consulting the other parent. Many people don't realise that, unless you have the benefit of a formal residence order, you need permission from the other parent or a court order before you can take a child abroad (and if you live in England or Wales this includes a trip to Scotland!).

If you leave it too late it could mean that the holiday has to be cancelled or that it goes ahead only because your ex feels backed into a corner and doesn't want to be seen by the children as being the one who stopped it. This will inevitably not only cause upset and resentment but is also very likely to affect your ability to work together on the many other day to day parenting issues that come up.

Application to the Court

If you really can't agree on who should have what holidays, or any other issues involving your children, you can make an application to the court but this should be your last resort. Quite apart from the financial expense (and even a simple dispute can cost significantly more than a couple of weeks in a nice hotel somewhere sunny), there is the emotional cost and the fact that you are handing over control for the decision to a judge.


Consider whether mediation might be appropriate. This gives you the opportunity to explore the issues with the assistance of an independent mediator who helps you to discuss issues and reach your own agreement.

Collaborative Law

Another option is to try the collaborative law approach, where all the discussions take place around the table but you each have your own specially trained collaborative family lawyer to advise you and be with you in the meetings. Everyone works together to try to reach agreement.

Other professionals such as family therapists can be brought in to help if required.

A good family lawyer who is a member of Resolution will be able to advise you on all the options. Even if mediation or collaborative law are not right for you, most cases can be resolved by negotiation without a judge's decision being imposed on you and your children. There is a great deal of information available to help you and some of the most useful links are set out below.

Nigel Shepherd

Partner, family lawyer and collaborative lawyer for Mills & Reeve LLP

Related links:

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