As summer (finally) approaches, many of us are daring to dream of that perfect getaway – especially after the UK’s long winter in lockdown!
Global pandemic aside, taking your child on an international holiday after the breakdown of a relationship can prove problematic, especially if your ex-partner won’t agree to the child going away with you.
If there is a child arrangements order already in place, then the parent the child is ordered to live with can take the child out of the UK for up to one month at a time without the other parent’s consent. If the child is not ordered to live with you, then you will need the other parent’s agreement to you taking the child out of the UK.
In most cases, separated parents are able to agree summer holiday plans and it is simply a case of letting the other parent know the plans, checking dates don’t clash with any holiday they might have booked and then finding that perfect destination.
There are, however, cases where the parents can’t agree and arguments about who can and can’t take the child away can very quickly turn bitter and even costly.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on holiday plans, the first step is to try and understand why that is the case? Speak to one another. Although there may have been conflict in the past, try and avoid jumping to the conclusion that the other parent is being difficult for the sake of it - there may be genuine reasons for the resistance to your holiday plans. It is important to listen to one another to take on board any concerns the other parent might have and to see if any compromise can be reached. Those concerns might be easily resolved.
If you are not able to discuss matters directly, then another option is mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process and a neutral third party (the mediator) facilitates the discussions between you and your ex-partner. Their role is to help you make decisions together where that may have not been possible through direct discussions.
Mediation is often a helpful process, particularly where there are disputes about the arrangements for and the upbringing of a child. The courts actively encourage parents to attend mediation where there is a disagreement, and the parents are expected to try mediation before they can issue a court application unless there are special circumstances which mean that mediation is not suitable for you and your ex-partner.
If mediation does not work or is not suitable, then the other option is to see if your ex-partner is willing to arbitrate. Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution which is finding increased popularity due to the court system being saturated due to Covid. Both parties need to agree to arbitration and choose their arbitrator who is usually an experienced family practitioner. There is a cost for an arbitrator which is usually shared by the parties. The decision of an arbitrator is binding. Arbitration can achieve a decision quicker than the court process, as in court proceedings there can be a number of hearings ordered before a final decision is made. The delay between court hearings is compounded at the moment due to the backlog created by Covid-19.
The final option for resolving the dispute is to go to court.
If you are the parent wanting to take the child away on holiday, but the other parent is refusing, then you need to apply to the court for a specific issue order. This allows the Judge to consider a specific point concerning the child’s upbringing; in this instance, whether or not they should be allowed to go on holiday with their parent.
If you want to resist your ex-partner taking your child on holiday, then you can apply for a prohibited steps order. This is an order preventing something from happening in relation to a child.
When deciding whether or not the child can go on holiday, the court’s primary focus will be on their welfare. In deciding what is in the child’s best interests, the court has in mind the child’s wishes and feelings, the physical and emotional needs, the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances, the age, sex, background and any characteristics considered relevant, any harm the child is at risk of suffering, how capable each of the parents are of meeting the child’s needs and the range of powers available to the court.
If you are having difficulties with your ex-partner when it comes to the arrangements for your child following a separation, then do not hesitate to speak to a member of our specialist family lawyers.
This article is written as a general guide and believed correct at the date of publication. If you need further or more specific information relating to your situation, please get in touch with us.
AUTHOR - Danielle Bentley