08 April 2019

For many parents, the dilemma of how to keep their children entertained for six weeks is just one of their worries. Following a divorce or separation, there is often the difficult question of who the child is to live with and how they are to spend their time, especially over the school holidays.

For some families, amicable arrangements can be made between themselves with no problems. However, sometimes an agreement is not possible and there is dispute over the care arrangements.

If there is any disagreement, mediation is usually the first way to attempt to resolve any issues. This involves both parents sitting down and attempting to come to an agreement with the help of a trained mediator.

The majority of cases can be resolved this way but, unfortunately in some cases, a suitable agreement cannot be reached by the parents. An example of this is where a child lives with one parent and they refuse to allow the other to see their child.

When agreement cannot be reached, an application can be made to the court for a Child Arrangements Order. A Child Arrangements Order is an order setting out with whom the child will live and what time they will spend with the other parent. When considering an application, the court’s starting point is that it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents in their life and that they should spend time with the parent that they do not live with. However, there may be reasons why it is not in the child’s best interest for this to happen. The court will weigh up all the information available and decide what is best for the child. The child’s welfare is of paramount importance.

Once an order is made by the court, if either parent breaches it they could be fined, ordered to do unpaid work or sent to prison. It is therefore important that both parties fulfil and adhere to the arrangements set out in the order.

Complications can arise when one of the parents wants to take their child on holiday abroad. Parents must obtain the written permission from everyone with parental responsibility for the child before taking him or her abroad. An exception to this is where a Child Arrangements Order is in force and the parent with whom the child lives wants to go abroad for a holiday and the holiday does not exceed 28 days. In that case consent of the other parent is not required. If agreement cannot be reached then an application can be made to the court for a Specific Issue Order, i.e. to determine whether the child can be taken abroad for a holiday.

For the parent who objects to the other taking the child abroad they can make an application to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order, i.e. for an order preventing the other parent taking the child abroad. Unless the court deems there is a safeguarding issue or there is concern that the other parent is intending to permanently remove the child from England, it will likely decide that a holiday is in a child’s best interest.

If you have any concerns regarding arrangements for your children, please contact Louise Gidley, Head of Family on 01935 846058 or who will be happy to advise on any matters. Battens Solicitors Family Department provides practical legal advice and representation on all aspects of family law, including children.