Contact/Access to children during school holidays

As we approach the school holidays many will be looking forward to a holiday in the sun with their children. For separating or divorcing couples with children this time of year can be difficult as disputes can arise over holiday contact.

Parental responsibility is an important concept which was introduced by the Children Act 1989. It provides the holder with responsibility for making decisions for the child. Married parents and unmarried mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children but unmarried fathers do not. If the child was born after 1st December 2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate he will automatically have parental responsibility. If the child was born prior to that date or the father is not named on the birth certificate he can obtain parental responsibility by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, by an order of the court or by marrying the mother.

Where both parents have joint parental responsibility, one parent should not take the children abroad without the other parent’s consent or an order of the court. If a parent does so they commit a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984. An exception to this is where there is a Residence Order in force as this enables the person in whose favor the order is made to take the children abroad to up to a month without consent.

If you wish to take your children abroad but your former spouse or partner will not agree, you can make an application to the court under the Children Act 1989. The application will be for a Specific Issue Order to address the question of whether you should be allowed to take the children on holiday. The court will consider a number of issues with the child’s welfare being the paramount consideration. The judge will consider whether or not the planned holiday is in the children’s best interests and make a decision.

If you have concerns about holiday contact or contact issues with your children generally, contact the Family Team at Palmers who will be able to provide you with detailed advice tailored to your particular circumstances.

Hannah Kelly