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August 2013 - ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’ … or not!

By Rob Parker, Associate Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer.

The summer holidays are now upon us, and so too are the seasonal disputes over contact arrangements which tend to dominate the workload of family lawyers this time of year. 

Disagreements between separated parents over the children which have been bubbling away the rest of the year often come to a head in July and August when this is the only opportunity to go away with the children and spend an extended period of quality time with them in an otherwise busy calendar. 

To their dismay, the mother or father discover at the last minute that their best-laid plans clash with the other parent’s. 

Family lawyers specialising in children work are familiar with the same arguments, eg. the timeshare is only available for that particular week, flights have been booked, the step-siblings can only do that time, the big family wedding/birthday/party is happening.

So whose plans take priority?  As Rob Parker, associate solicitor at Phillips explains, ‘It’s a tricky exercise, but if a court is asked to decide, a judge would normally base his or her decision on looking at what is in the best interests of the child, also having regard to what happened the year before during the last summer holiday, what each parent’s proposed plans entail and whether they are set in stone or if there is some room for flexibility.

And what would Rob’s advice be for parents who find themselves in this situation?  ‘However tough it might be, parents should place the best interests of the child first and try and put aside any feelings about finding it hard to be without the children for a couple of weeks, which the main carer can sometimes be acutely aware of.   Compromise should also be explored, so if one parent’s plans take precedence this year, is there room for a trade-off for the other at the next school holidays? Mediation is a great way of finding a middle-way here. 

But if there is a genuine impasse, then seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer who is a member of Resolution (the national family lawyers association).  It is also crucial to plan ahead for the next year rather than leave things to the last minute and always check with the other parent before making bookings and incurring costs, this is especially vital where a trip abroad is envisaged.’

Rob Parker D/L 01256 854604 email: rparker@phillips-law.co.uk