Navigating School Holidays as a Separated Parent: A Guide for Parents in England and Wales

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Anna Vollans

Founder of Vollans Mediation

When parents are no longer together, school holidays can be challenging and need careful thought. Some collaboration is needed to make a schedule that fulfils a child’s needs and allows for valuable time with each parent.

Establishing a clear timetable that sets out how holidays will be shared between you is key. Any schedule should be created well in advance to allow for planning and to avoid conflict. Lots of separated parents will make a plan for the year ahead (September or January can be good times to do this) so that everyone knows what’s happening. You’ll need to look up all the school holiday dates for the year as early as possible and also factor in any training days when school will be closed. Being aware of the exact dates and duration of school holidays allows parents to make arrangements well in advance.

Effective communication is key for successful co-parenting during school holidays. Parents should maintain open lines of communication wherever possible. Using an app like Our Family Wizard might assist you in making plans when communication is difficult.

Whilst having a schedule is vital, some flexibility is equally important as unforeseen circumstances or last-minute changes may arise. If things change at short notice, being understanding and accommodating can help reduce tension and create a positive co-parenting environment. It is essential to keep any conflict or disagreement away from the child.

If both parents work and have limited time off in the holidays, it can be particularly challenging. Again, communication between parents well in advance of the holidays is key to finding a workable schedule. Here are a few things to think about:-

  • Are you able to share the responsibility of caring for the child/children during school holidays between you? This could involve alternating weeks or specific time periods where each parent takes care of them. You may need to explore flexible work arrangements, adjusted schedules, remote work options or shared parental leave, to better accommodate your parenting responsibilities. It is advisable to discuss these possibilities with employers to find a solution.
  • If either of you have extended family members who are available and willing to provide childcare during school holidays, this can be a great solution for some or all of the holiday time. Grandparents, aunts, uncles or other relatives can be a great help in looking after your children if they are open to it.
  • Engaging professional childcare services such as day camps, summer programs or holiday clubs can be an alternative. These services offer structured activities and supervision during school holidays. Obviously these need to be planned well in advance and you may need to have a discussion about who will cover the cost. If there are concerns about affordability, there is also government support available – visit this link to see if you’re eligible.

When one parent is wanting to take the child on a break in their home country or abroad, discussing arrangements in advance is a must. Sharing information and giving plenty of time will help to reduce any anxiety. Maintaining open lines of communication with the other parent is essential, even if the relationship is strained. Engage in sincere and transparent discussions about the proposed trip, providing detailed information regarding travel dates, destination, accommodation, and a proposed itinerary.

In England and Wales both parents will typically have parental responsibility for their child, even if they are separated or divorced. Parental responsibility encompasses making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including travel arrangements.

While consent from the other parent may not be legally required in certain situations, making an effort to address their concerns and keep them informed can help maintain a cooperative approach.

In some cases, a letter of consent from the non-traveling parent may be necessary. Research the specific requirements of your destination country and consult with relevant authorities or legal professionals to ensure compliance with travel regulations.

If obtaining the other parent’s consent becomes impossible or disagreements persist, mediation offers a neutral platform to facilitate discussions and find mutually agreeable solutions. If mediation is unsuccessful or urgent matters arise, involving the court may be necessary  to obtain permission to take the child out of the country. In this case it is crucial to consult with a family law solicitor to understand the legal procedures involved in obtaining a court order for travel. Before you make any application to the court you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and consider mediation (unless any of the exemptions apply).

Whatever arrangements you make, it is best to record them in a Parenting Plan. This way everyone involved knows what is happening and what is expected of them, plus there is a clearly written agreement to refer back to.

In situations where co-parenting agreements cannot be reached independently, mediation can provide a valuable tool for resolving conflicts and establishing effective holiday arrangements. We can help you work together in a cooperative and respectful manner, explore options, communicate constructively, and find mutually beneficial solutions. Mediation focuses on the best interests of the child and aims to minimise hostility between the parents.

Remember, it is crucial for separated parents to prioritise the best interests of the child when making decisions about child care during school holidays. Depending on the age of your child it might be a good idea to involve them in the decision-making. By working together, separated parents can ensure that school holidays become an opportunity for their child to spend quality time with both parents as well as extended family.

If you’re considering mediation to help you make arrangements for school holidays, you could benefit from the £500 Family Mediation Voucher towards your mediation costs. The vouchers are hugely beneficial because they allow people to try mediation. Most are surprised to discover they can reach a resolution in just a few sessions; they can leave with clear parenting plans with the confidence to make it work, without the need for lawyers or courts.

If this article has left you with further questions, you can always get in touch with us via our contact form on this page. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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