Making Summer Holiday Plans For Children When You Separate

Getting your family summer holiday booked always needed a plan – usually months in advance. Where to go that suits everyone, when, making sure everything’s booked in time… But how do you make summer holiday plans when you separate?

When you’re getting divorced the planning process can become even more complicated.  You might not have to take into account your soon-to-be-ex’s love of historic castles anymore. But you will need to agree who has the children when.  And you may need to get their consent to take the children away. Now is the time to get your summer holiday plans in place. And to make sure they’re legally compliant. 

Childcare over the summer holidays

Before we get into the holiday itself, think about the long six-week summer holidays. School will be out. Do you and your soon-to-be-ex have a plan for who will have the children throughout July and August? 

Will both of you need to factor in time off work? Will you need to agree finances to cover holiday clubs or other childcare? Do you need to consult with friends and family about them helping? 

Now is the time to get a plan in place if you don’t have one already. If you have a Parenting Plan already established it is useful to agree general principles relating to the children’s holidays as part of this. Then you can agree more specific dates and details on an annual or quarterly basis. You can read more about Parenting Plans here. 

Taking children away on holiday

If both parents have parental responsibility then you need to agree overseas holiday arrangements rather than act unilaterally. You are both at liberty to take the children on holiday within the UK, but, of course, the best practice is that the other parent knows what is happening. 

If one of you wishes to take children overseas this must be with the agreement of both of you. Taking a child without permission is classed as abduction. 

The only exceptions to this are if you are a ‘living with’ order. If that is the case that parent can take the children abroad without consent for up to 28 days. Ensure you have a copy of the order with you at all times when you travel. The only other case when a parent can take a child abroad without the other parent’s consent is when a court has granted a specific order for the trip. 

If you do take your children overseas on holiday with the consent of your ex-partner, make sure you get permission in writing and keep this with you. While this is not strictly necessary it can be useful to have a document containing your ex’s permission and their contact details in case you are asked at border control. It’s also useful to have birth and divorce certificates in case you are questioned. 

Whether you stay in the UK or travel further afield the best-case scenario is that you both discuss and agree holiday arrangements together. If you are both fully informed you can both prepare the children for how they will spend their summer holidays, and you can prepare for your own child-free time. 

Coming up with a plan together

It is a good idea to get into a cycle of agreeing holiday plans at the start of the school year. That way you, your ex-partner and your children all know where you stand for the rest of the year. Of course, the 2020-21 school year looked very different! So if you haven’t made plans for the school holidays yet, now is the time. Don’t leave it until June. It’s easier for things to be calmer if you have more time to get things organised. 

If you and your ex-partner have an amicable, or at least civil, parenting relationship, you can create a plan together. One way to do this is to agree to both put forward your suggestions then work from there. Or if they are dragging their heels, you could make some suggestions, and invite them to agree or suggest other arrangements. Once you have your plan in place, include it as part of your Parenting Plan documentation so you can refer back to it if needed. 

If discussion is getting you nowhere a mediator can help. A mediator can talk with both of you to help create a plan. They will help to focus discussion on the best interests of the children and aim to facilitate a workable solution for everyone. Holidays can be an emotional hotspot, so getting mediation is a good way to ensure you stay on track 

Getting the courts involved

You don’t need permission from your ex-partner to take your children on holiday in the UK, unless you want to change court-ordered arrangements to do it. You do need permission if you are taking the children overseas. The courts would prefer you to decide between yourselves if possible. 

If your ex-partner will not grant permission you can apply for a court order. You will need to make this application as soon as possible.

The court will decide whether or not it is in the child’s best interests to go on the holiday. The court will consider factors such as:

  • The child’s preferences (taking into account their age and grasp of the situation)
  • Their practical, emotional and physical needs 
  • The ability of each parent, and any other relevant adults, to meet the needs of the child. 

If you do get a court order granting you permission to travel, make sure you take the documentation with you. 

You can find out more about gaining permission to take a child abroad from government guidance here. 

I can help you plan

Whether it’s your first summer apart or your tenth, tackling the summer holiday arrangements can be overwhelming. You might not know what you want, or what’s fair. You might have a crystal clear vision for what you want but know your ex-partner won’t play ball. Or you might be looking for strategies to help your communication go as smoothly as possible, so you all get what you want. You don’t want to jeopardise a decent co-parenting relationship by coming to blows over holiday arrangements. 

That’s where I come in. I offer strategy sessions on any aspect of divorce, including holiday planning. And getting the holiday plans sorted isn’t as frivolous as it first appears. How you and your ex-spouse tackle holiday arrangements says a lot about the power relationships between you. And, like it or not, you will have to maintain some sort of relationship into the future as you co-parent or parallel parent your children. So it’s important to get both the tone and the practicalities right. 

Book in a 1:1 strategy session to sort your holiday plans today. 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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