Taking the stress out of holiday planning for separated families

At this time of the year we are being bombarded with images of sun, sea and sand coming at us through the television, social media and the press.  Free child places, only £1 deposit and free theme park passes all generate increasing pressure upon us to click that button, make the call and book that holiday before the offer is gone.  So now it’s booked, the date is on the calendar and everything is sorted.  Or is it?

If you are a separated parent looking forward to taking your little one on holiday, did you remember to mention your plans to your former partner before signing up for it?  It is probably going to be ok - but as the summer approaches we find that we deal with an increasing number of enquiries from parents who have booked holidays only to find themselves in a disagreement with their former partners about taking their child.

There are a number of reasons - the holiday plans clash or the dates are inconvenient, or it can be as simple and as upsetting as the child is not going. These disagreements can erupt days only before the holiday is due to start.  Maybe there was an agreement before the holiday was booked and paid for, or maybe the arrangements were fine when discussed after the booking. Or maybe you just didn’t feel able to say anything because you knew it would an argument so waited until the last minute to reveal the plan.  Whatever the reason – you have a problem.

So what do you do?  The immediate advice is to try and sort out it out between you and if communication has become difficult, bring in some help.  Good legal advice, if it is only limited to an initial discussion, will provide a sensible way forward.  Look for those who offer initial appointments at a fixed fee which may include a letter to your partner.  On many occasions this has resulted in the holiday taking place – and the child being none the wiser.  

There are professional bodies who offer mediation.  They will work with you both to help you reach an agreement which is particularly sensible if there is time before the holiday is due to start.  But if you really are at loggerheads and there seems no way sorting things out, then the Family Court is the last resort for you and it is the Court who will make a decision about your child’s holiday.

We have experience of parents coming to us with only days to go before their flight is due to leave.  In appropriate circumstances a case can be brought very quickly in time for the holiday to still take place.  If it has been booked with agreement and the arrangements have been made in good faith, there is every possibility that your child will have a holiday.  If there is no valid reason to deny a holiday with a parent then a Court is highly likely to agree to it.

Unfortunately Public Funding (Legal Aid) is not available for these types of disagreements and parents will need to decide whether to pay for their representation at Court, or choose instead to be at a hearing without a lawyer but still have their say and be listened to.  For parents who feel they need some guidance and advice in these again it’s good to shop around and research the costs.  You can choose the level of support you need from a lawyer and so keep control of your spending.  Just take the initial advice, or ask for help filling in paperwork or perhaps the priority for you is to be represented at the hearing itself.  Much of this is available at fixed prices.

Children love holidays and parents love to spend quality time with them.  Sadly when parents are unable to put aside their own hurt feelings following a separation, more often than not it is the child that bears the brunt of the conflict.  This can sometimes manifest itself in denying a child holiday.

Particularly at this time of year we like to remind parents of some useful tips to avoid holiday nightmares:-

  1. Always plan ahead – many of the cases we see arise due to the failure or refusal of parents to communicate with each other clearly and in a cooperative manner.  Talk to each other about your plans, when you are thinking of going, and give information about where you are planning to stay. 
  2. Don’t get hung up on the little details.  These can often be overcome with a little more thought. This is a holiday for a child.  Are they really not going to have a great time?
  3. Respect each other. You are both parents and your child will love you both.  Don’t be rude about each other if you are having problems communication as this will only cause anxiety and worry for your little one.
  4. Be on the same side.  Don’t ask the child whether they really want to go on holiday or who if they prefer to go on holiday with you instead?  It is not a competition and your child shouldn’t be put in the middle.
  5. Try and relax.  It is difficult for any parent to be separated from their child even if it is because they are on holiday.  As long as the arrangements are well made, all that should be left is for everyone to enjoy the experience.
  6. Don’t be afraid to allow telephone calls.  Don’t get worked up if your child wants to call home or if their wants to be able to speak to them whilst they are away.  It’s perfectly normal and part of parenting. Think about if the shoe was on the other foot.  It doesn’t take away the quality of time and it shows to everyone that you are putting your child first. 

Finally these family moments are very precious and time limited.  Once you have a young person of a certain age who has a mind of their own (and you can probably guess what age they might be!) you will not be able to get them to holiday with you for love or even for your hard earned money!


About Stephensons

  • Stephensons is an award-winning top 150 law firm, with a turnover of £18million and over 400 staff based in ten offices across the country.
  • Stephensons is a multi-service firm providing legal services to individuals, businesses and government organisations.

Media information

Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Sarah Boustouller, Tel: 01942 774081, Email: sbo@stephensons.co.uk