25 July 2023

Tips for a stress-free summer for separated families

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James Marsden Partner & Head of Family
Child hugging teddy while parents argue in park

The schools have broken up and the summer holidays are here. For many, it’s a time for the family to unwind and spend quality time together. However, for some families, holidays aren’t the fun they’re cracked up to be.

Recent research from PGL Adventures revealed that 45% of parents admitted to experiencing burn-out while trying to ‘do it all’ during the summer holidays. 41% confessed that they felt stressed with a further 25% admitting that they feel anxious.

On top of this, some separated and divorced families have the added pressure of sharing the summer holidays. There is no set rulebook on how to split holidays when divorced or separated, meaning that parents often have to come to an agreement regarding the division of holidays themselves. Making things amicable for the sake of the children whilst finding a practical balance for both parents can be a difficult task that often takes a significant amount of planning.

Tips for separated parents this summer holiday

1. Agree holiday arrangements in advance

There is no typical holiday schedule for separated or divorced parents in the UK, so parents have to make a plan on what works best for their children. Whether you want a day, weekend, or week with your child, the earlier you plan the more time you will have to make arrangements with your ex.

Make sure you and the child’s other parent have discussed arrangements for the holidays ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings, disappointment, or conflict. Create a parenting plan together and make agreements in writing where possible. Don’t book any holidays or major activities until you have done this.

2. Don’t try to outdo one another

Some parents may vie for the ‘best summer ever’ but stretching two homes budgets on a competitive holiday war won’t help anyone.

You may want to be there with your child as they enjoy an activity and may feel resentment if the other parent does it first or if you can’t afford it yourself. There may be certain activities that you don’t want your child to do that your ex thinks are acceptable.

It is important to stay flexible as you co-parent and focus on the best interests of the child. If possible, agree to a holiday budget and come up with a summer holiday parenting plan with written parameters of what activities you both agree to be acceptable.

3. Travelling abroad

If you are a separated parent thinking about taking your children abroad this summer, make sure you agree this ahead of time with the children’s other parent.

Make sure that you have parental responsibility and the legal right to take your child abroad. Don’t book flights and hotels on the assumption that the other parent won’t mind. You must have permission from all parties who hold parental responsibility before you jet off.

4. In case of emergencies

Always provide the other parent with information regarding where your children will be during the summer holidays. If you do go abroad, provide full details of your trip including return flight information and where you will stay.

Provide contact details for yourself as well as any other care givers in case of any emergencies. This can include new partners, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or even paid babysitters.

5. Keep in touch while you’re away

Agree how the children will keep in touch with their other parent whilst they are away – and encourage them to stick to this. A schedule for contact can be established in your parenting plan.

Establish and agree on the manner of contact. Phone calls and videos calls are a great way to stay in touch, but this is open to conversation over whether your child should have their own phone or use their parents. Deciding on this in advance can help to avoid arguments.

Final thoughts

We can’t guarantee that these tips will make for a totally conflict-free family holiday, but they can help to ease worries for divorced families in the future.

Moving forward, it is essential that you plan early and agree the holiday arrangements as far in advance as possible. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, then it is important that expert family law advice is sought as soon as possible.

James Marsden, Wilkin Chapman LLP
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Contact James to discuss this further.

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