Avoiding summer holiday contact issues

The school summer holidays are fast approaching. It is at this time of year that separated parents may encounter disputes about the arrangements for the holiday period and now is the time to resolve such issues.

It can be a costly process to resolve these matters through the courts and therefore it is best to try and make arrangements in advance to ensure that all parties to enjoy their summer holidays with the children.

There are times when the parties will not be able to agree arrangements and in such circumstances, it may be necessary to issue an application to the court to determine the issue. The court will set a date for a hearing where both parents are expected to attend. In the first instance, attempts will be made at court to negotiate holiday contact arrangements. If such negotiations are not fruitful, the court may seek the assistance of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). An officer from CAFCASS will speak to the parents and the children if they are old enough. A recommendation by the CAFCASS officer will then be made to the court. Parents should bear in mind that any recommendation made by CAFCASS will take into consideration the best interests of the children and is likely to be persuasive with the court.

Court proceedings can be lengthy, costly and also stressful for all the parties involved. It is therefore in all parties’ interest to try and reach an amicable agreement. This can be done through effective correspondence and communication between the parties or if that is not possible the parties could attend mediation or ask their respective solicitors to attempt to resolve matters through correspondence.

Parties should take into consideration each other’s plans and work commitments. Parties should discuss these as soon as possible and provide their respective dates for summer holiday contact. This should not be left to the last minute. Parties should not book anything until there is an agreement in place.

When a holiday booking is made, the parties should provide to one another details of accommodation, flights and proposed contact with the other parent via email/telephone etc whilst the child is abroad.

Children will now be counting down the days to their summer holidays. Parents can ensure an enjoyable holiday by ironing out any problems as soon as possible and making sure that arrangements are made taking into the consideration the children’s best interests.