How are holidays divided between separated parents?

How holidays are divided between separated parents can often be a real concern, but what if parents cannot come to an agreement? Here, George Wilson looks at the factors that the family court will take into consideration when deciding what is in the best interest of the child.

How holidays, be those of a religious nature, linked to the school calendar, or something else, are divided can be a real concern for many separated parents. Many parents have struck a balance in terms of agreeing where, and with whom, a child will spend such holidays. However, sometimes separated parents will look to the family court to decide and help them, and their children. It is first important to note that any determination that the court makes in regard to holiday arrangements will take into account the specific facts of each individual case and look squarely at what is in each child’s best interests.

Often, parents who live close to one another can often reach an agreement between themselves, whereas parents who live many miles away from one another will simply not be able to achieve such an outcome. It is almost impossible to say, with any certainty, how the court would deal with each individual case without a full knowledge of the child(ren) involved, the history of the parents, and any arrangements that are already (or have been) in place. It is possible to provide some insight as to how the court might deal with certain holidays.

In terms of the school holidays, separated parents must consider the summer holidays, Easter, and half-terms.

Often, the summer holiday (being the longest school holiday) will be split on a week on, week off basis, so that there is some routine for the child(ren) concerned and so that both parents are able to spend adequate time with them. That being said, in some cases it may be that a week with each parent, and then two weeks with each parent, may work better due to overseas travel or other plans. It is rare for the summer holidays, assuming they are 6 weeks long, to be divided down the middle on 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off basis. In circumstances where one parent has not spent extended duration’s of time with the child(ren) for a long period, it may be that the court determines that there is some form of stepped plan to arrive at prolonged holiday contact.

In relation to the half-terms, many parents will simply agree to have a set half-term holiday, with the other parent taking either the remaining two holidays or agreeing to take one and divide the third. Other parents may opt for an equal division of all of the half-term holidays, with a handover of the child(ren) taking place at some point during the holiday itself. It really does boil down to what is in the best interest of the child(ren).

Easter and Christmas are slightly more complex given the religious nature of the holiday(s). Easter is often divided in the same way that the summer holiday might be dealt with, with each parent taking a set period of time with the child(ren) depending on working plans and what is best of the child(ren). Christmas can cause further issues given that the holiday is held in such importance for many people. A further blog could be written on Christmas holiday arrangements in isolation; however, many parents will opt to alternate between Christmas and new year on an annual basis. Be sure to look out for a further blog in relation to how such an arrangement might be workable closer to the festive season.

Where specific arrangements for holidays have been put into place for holidays, the usual arrangements will normally be suspended as to provide both parents with sufficient time with the child(ren), and free from the requirement to make the child(ren) available to the other parent.

Holidays are a complex issue, that many parents overlook when reaching an agreement in relation to spending time with their child(ren). It is important to consider the importance of holidays, and how child arrangements will be worked and amended around these periods. Should you wish to discuss matters involving child arrangements around the holiday periods, do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist children team.


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