While the long summer holidays are eagerly awaited by many, for divorced and separated parents the childcare challenges they throw up can pose something of a logistical nightmare.
Fiona Yellowlees, Head of Family Law at WBW Solicitors, provides her top tips for sorting out childcare arrangements with your former partner and staying on cordial terms:
1. Draw up a timetable but stay flexible – agree with your ex-partner who is going to have the children when before the holidays start so you can plan other commitments around your childcare responsibilities. Build in time to see grandparents, family members and friends and you will have a wide support network to rely on. Remember: things will not always go to plan, so stay flexible and work out possible contingency plans if, for example, you or your child’s other parent has an unpredictable job.
2. Keep it amicable – avoid arguing on the phone, you never know when the children may be listening. If issues arise, try to resolve them face-to-face without the kids present. If the fallout from your split is still painful, hand over the children in a neutral place to minimise the chances of an argument erupting.
3. Agree the rules in advance – it may be that there are certain activities you would prefer your children not to take part in due to safety concerns. Or if you have teenagers, there may be a curfew or other rules you would like them to abide by. By having an open line of communication and talking things through with the other parent you can establish a set of rules and boundaries that you are both happy with and send a consistent message to your children.
4. Be punctual – delay is sometimes inevitable but persistent lateness in collecting or dropping off the children without explanation is a sure-fire why to breed resentment. If you are going to be late, let your former partner know.
5. Separate money and contact issues – do not be tempted to cut off contact arrangements because of overdue child maintenance payments. You could end up in court which, unless there are exceptional circumstances, will generally order that contact is resumed.
6. Travelling abroad – holidays are an opportunity for a break from the usual routine and for the lucky, a chance to gain new experiences and adventure. Both parents will want to spend time with the children, so think about what is in the best interests of your children and try and be flexible about changes to the usual contact arrangements so they can make the most of the opportunities before them. If you want to take your children overseas, all those with parental responsibility need to agree if there is no Child Arrangements Order in place. If you cannot agree, or you are concerned about the safety of your children if they travel abroad, then you can ask the court to help.
It is in both parents’ interest for the holiday childcare to go smoothly, so try to approach negotiations positively. If you are struggling though, family mediation/collaborative law can help. Our family law experts are specially trained to help parents explore a problem and find options to resolve any issues between them.
For more information on making arrangements for children, or any other family law issue, contact Fiona Yellowlees on 01626 202404.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.