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Written by:

Lauren Foote

Associate Family Law Advocate

01902 200143

Posted on

April 22, 2024


Do you need a Child-Arrangement order for the school holidays?

The school summer holidays for separated parents with a child(ren) can be a difficult to manage. If you are not the primary carer for your child(ren), it can be daunting to ask your ex-partner if you can take your child(ren) on holiday or spend time with them, due to your history and with a wish to avoid conflict. Likewise, if you are the primary carer for your children and wish to make arrangements for the child(ren).

We understand that as a separated parent, it can be difficult at times to make plans in relation to your children and certainly if no formal agreement has been reached with your ex-partner in relation to child arrangements.

Whilst some separated families may be able to reach agreements between themselves in relation to their child(ren), other families do require further assistance in reaching these agreements.

There are a number of options available to separated parents when seeking to formalise child arrangements:

  1. Negotiations through solicitors

The first port of call would be to attempt to agree matters with your ex-partner through a solicitor. Correspondence can take the form of email or first-class post and with a view to negotiating the terms of all child(ren) arrangements. The intention being to open up a line of communication with your ex-partner and negotiating back and forth until an agreement has been reached that you are both comfortable with. Should these negotiations prove successful, there are two options:

  1. You move forward with the agreement which has been reached, which is not legally binding nor enforceable by law, and with the hope that neither parent defaults on the agreement; or
  2. You contain the agreement reached within a Court Order and file this with the Court for approval alongside an application to the Court. Once approved, this would become an Order of the Court and could not be amended save for a further Order of the Court or the child(ren)’s maturity. In these circumstances, the Court will usually deal with these applications on paper although will request CAFCASS to undertake safeguarding enquiries before any Order is made (more of which below).

2. Mediation

If negotiations through solicitors have failed a referral to a qualified Family Mediator will be required. Within family mediation, an independent professionally trained mediator helps you to work out arrangements for the child(ren). Mediation can also be useful when parents are seeking to amend child(ren) arrangements that are already in place and that need to change for one reason or another i.e., your children are older, and the previous arrangements are not working as well.

If mediation is not successful, you will be provided with a Certificate, and which will enable you to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. Without a Certificate from a Mediator any application to the Court will be refused save for instances when the intended applicant has been a victim of domestic abuse, and which will form an exemption from attending mediation. There are other exemptions which include but are not limited to the unknown whereabouts of one person, either party living abroad and urgency.

  1. Application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order

As above, after you have attempted mediation and it has not been successful, depending upon whether mediation is suitable in the first place, the next step would be to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. The purpose of a Child Arrangements Order is to legally define who the child(ren) shall spend time with, where they will live, and how and when they will see each parent.

For example, the Court Order may set out that the child(ren) shall live with both parents on a shared care basis, or it may set out that the child(ren) shall live with one parent and spend time with the other, and this could include direct contact as well as indirect contact in the form of telephone calls, video calls, letters, and cards.

A Child Arrangements Order is legally binding until the child(ren) reaches the age of 18. The parents will be in breach of the Order if contact arrangements are not upheld as per the contents of the Order. Any Final Order can only be amended by way of a further Order or in some circumstances express written agreement between the parents.

The Court may direct parents to liaise with each other; however, if communication has broken down, the Court may suggest that parties use a parenting app to make arrangements easier. On these apps, you are unable to delete any correspondence, which can be used as evidence should matters escalate and referred back to Court. You can also make telephone calls, video calls and send financial support.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

  1. The Child(ren)’s Mother.
  2. The Child(ren)’s Father.
  3. Any person who has Parental Responsibility for the child.
  4. Other people, such as grandparents, can apply for these Orders although they will need to get permission of the Court to do so.

The court will consider the views of both parents and make a final decision based on what is believed to be in the best interest of the child(ren). The child(ren)’s welfare is the Court’s paramount concern. The Court will also enlist the assistance of CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) when considering any application to the Court and who will undertake safeguarding enquiries and advise the Court about the welfare of the child(ren) and what is in their best interests. A Court Order is a legally binding document and enforceable by law and will usually set out the arrangements for your child(ren) to include during term time as well as school holidays and special occasions.

If you are struggling to reach an agreement with your ex-partner and you wish to have contact with your child(ren) generally, on a more regular basis or for extended periods of time, then it is key to take the necessary steps at this stage to ensure that arrangements are put in place in readiness for the summer holidays this year.

If the application is made now in relation to summer holiday contact, then this should allow the Court enough time to consider the application, list a Hearing and assist parties by making an interim Order for Child Arrangements (so long as it would be safe to do so).

How to make a free no obligation appointment

You can consider having a parenting plan drawn up to incorporate your agreement. However, the thing to bear in mind with any informal agreement is that it can be changed sometimes for no good reason other than the other parent’s convenience, and it is important to note that it is not legally binding.

However, if you fail to reach an agreement on a child arrangement plan for the summer holidays, then you should attempt to agree or compromise for the sake of the child(ren). In some cases, family mediation is a great option if you think that an agreement cannot be reached between the two of you and require a third-party involvement.

Should you require further information please do not hesitate to contact the Family Team at Davisons Law on 0808 3037 245.



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