Contact over the summer holidays

04/07/2017

Schools are finished for the summer and, as teachers count their presents and head off for their holidays, parents will be planning to head off on their own holidays with their little ones.

Where the relationship between a child’s parents has come to an end, this is a time of year where disputes can arise often and easily. The legal position which can cause issues in these circumstances is that one parent cannot remove a child from the United Kingdom, regardless of how short or temporary a period that may be for, without either the consent of the other parent or a court order authorizing them to do so. In practical terms, this means that where a child’s mother or father cannot lawfully take a child abroad on holiday unless the other parent agrees. If that agreement is not forthcoming, then the only option is to seek an order from court authorizing the trip.

A parent can exercise contact anywhere in the United Kingdom without needing to get approval from the court or the other parent, and so a “staycation” does not provide an opportunity for the kind of issues mentioned above to arise.

If the holiday planned is one which will take you beyond the UK, then it is advisable to plan the trip as well in advance as possible. While there is always the risk that doing so will provide an opportunity for disagreement, generally it is advisable for the trip to be discussed with the other parent at an early stage, to allow any potential issues to be identified and addressed. It will also flag up whether an application to court is likely to be needed, therefore allowing plenty time for the application to be made.

If an application to court was to be necessary, there is not a prescribed checklist of factors which would require to be addressed. However, you would expect to be required to satisfy the court that the travel plans would keep the child safe and were appropriate for their age and stage; wouldn’t disrupt the child’s relationship with the other parent or prevent them having contact; and that the holiday was one that would benefit the child and which they would like to be taken on.

In many cases, holiday plans are made and carried out without any issue arising but should things not go smoothly then careful, advanced-planning can often allow potential disputes to be addressed and/ or avoided and holiday plans to go ahead.