Family lawyer Deborah Johnson offers advice to separated parents planning to take their children abroad on how to avoid conflict and ensure the summer break is as much fun as it should be.
“Children are meant to enjoy the holidays, as are parents. What we’re trying to avoid is the scenario where one announces to the children that they are going to Disneyland, but the other parent says no,” she says.
Deborah, who works as a mediator as well as a family lawyer at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, says she often sees separated parents clash when they experience school holidays, particularly for the first time. They may have quite happily worked out how the children spend time with their parents during the year, but then one parent books a holiday without realising, generally, they need permission from the other parent to take their children out of the jurisdiction.
The first step for separated parents – whether or not they were ever married – is to agree between themselves any plans well in advance of booking anything so that everyone knows where they stand and has full details of any proposal.
“This also gives both parties the chance to work out the practicalities such as handing over passports and belongings and to ensure children, excited about a holiday, aren’t disappointed when plans are blocked. It also means the parent left at home is clear exactly how the holiday impacts their allotted time with the children and can work out how they will communicate with the children while they are away. This type of discussion should also be included in planned trips with other family members such as grandparents,” Deborah says.
If discussions break down or parents can’t agree, mediation is available to try to reach a written decision and prevent problems escalating and ending up in court. Courts tend to become involved in this kind of scenario when they are asked to provide permission for children to leave the jurisdiction because the other party objects, or to protect a child from the risk of abduction, which is a criminal offence.
Before the court gets involved, and unless it’s an emergency, the courts expect both parties to have attended MIAM (mediation information assessment meeting) and a judge will want to know details of any parental agreements and will ask for information such as proposed holiday dates, telephone numbers, addresses of holiday accommodation and the country involved.
Mostly, working out holiday arrangements is common sense and hopefully parents can agree amicably among themselves how the school holidays will work. But certain situations may require urgent legal advice and for orders to be put in place to provide a decision and ensure security.
If you have any concerns, contact a family lawyer for advice.
020 3567 1208
Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen, recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by Solicitors Journal.
- For 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- In 2016, the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.