Half-term doesn't have to be double the stress
Whether planning for half-term or the Christmas holidays, parents need to ensure they know how
to resolve issues over holiday contact arrangements following the introduction of new rules earlier this year.
Previously, parents would apply to the court for a contact and/or a residence order to determine whom the child should live with and when the child would see the other parent. From 22 April 2014 the label of ‘residence’ has been dropped and whom the child lives with, spends time with and has contact with comes under a Child Arrangements Order (CAO).
The Courts dislike making Orders concerning children and parents are being encouraged to attend mediation sessions in an attempt to come to an agreement. Before either parent can apply to the court for a CAO, both parents must have attended a compulsory mediation information meeting (MIAM) to try and resolve residency and contact issues independently.
For parents with a residence order, or the person named in the CAO as “with whom the child is to live”, it is possible to take the child abroad for up to 28 days without permission from the other parent. The parent with whom the child lives will also hold the passport, but should make it available in good time to the other parent who should return it promptly after the holiday.
When it comes to organising the school holidays, the more notice that can be given the better. Leaving it to the month before to sort out holiday contact is likely to result in arguments and expensive last minute holidays. In the vast majority of cases, where there is no court order in place, consent is needed from the other parent, but that consent should not be withheld unreasonably.
Parents should provide each other with details of flights and addresses and make arrangements for contact with the other parent whilst away. A telephone call on arrival to let the other parent know they have arrived safely and a few other brief calls should be sufficient.
There are no rules over how much holiday contact should be offered, however it is important to bear in mind the needs of the children. Younger children may find it difficult to be separated from the parent with main care and older children could have their own plans which should be accommodated.
The main emphasis is on the parents acting in the best interest of their child and caring for the child without the involvement of the law. If it is not possible to agree holiday contact, legal advice should be sought and mediation attempted.