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The summer holidays are usually a time when the routine of term time is set aside and replaced with later nights, multiple daytime activities and trips away. For divorced or separated parents, the summer holidays may mean that any term time contact arrangements are replaced with summertime arrangements. If not agreed in advance, there is potential for disagreement, conflict and potentially double bookings. How do you best avoid these situations?
The most preferable way to settle summertime child arrangements is by agreement. An open line of communication about any plans and trips will assist, and should prevent things such as double booking of trips or daytime activities. Parents will also be able to provide details of where the child will be going, staying and how the child can be contacted whilst away.
Having a discussion and being in agreement of the arrangements will enable each parent to ask the other for permission to take the child out of England and Wales, should that be the case. It is important to note that in the absence of consent from every person with parental responsibility for that child, or a court order (see below), it may result in a criminal offence being committed under the Child Abduction Act 1984 to take the child (under the age of 16) out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales. However, if a Child Arrangement Order (formally Residence Order) has been made by the Court, stating that the child is to live with a particular parent/holder of parental responsibility, that person may take the child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for a period up to 28 days without consent from the other holders of parental responsibility.
Where communication with the other parent is difficult, it may be beneficial for negotiations to be through solicitors, or by attending mediation, in attempt to reach an agreement.
If no agreement is forthcoming or an urgent issue arises that overtakes discussions it may be necessary to apply to the Court for an order.
Where one parent seeks permission from the other parent/holder of parental responsibility to take the child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales, and that permission is not forthcoming, an application can be made for a Specific Issue Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This type of application will ask the Court to grant permission for the child to be removed from the jurisdiction for the specific purpose of the holiday. The Court can also be asked to consider delivery of passports if they are retained by the other parent.
Similarly, should one parent want to prevent the other from taking the child out of England or Wales that parent can make an application for a Prohibited Steps Order. This can be done if there are concerns about the welfare of the child, or if there are suspicions that the parent is moving the child permanently under the pretence of a holiday. Such an application may need to be made on an emergency basis.
In relation to any application made under the Children Act 1989, the Courts will have the child’s best interests and welfare in mind, and this will be the paramount consideration when making its decision.
Whether you are able to reach an agreement in respect of summertime contact arrangements, or need help in doing so, it is advisable to seek legal advice in respect of the issues arising out of the breakdown of your marriage/relationship. If you require assistance in relation to these issues, or any other matrimonial legal issues, please feel free to contact a member of our Family Law Department on 01242 574244 and we will be happy to meet you and discuss your situation.