Co-parenting plans for school holidays
When you separate or divorce from your partner, navigating day-to-day child arrangements can prove challenging. An aspect of building an effective co-parenting plan is to consider what will happen during school holidays – something we often see families forget about until very close to the time or after the holidays have already started.
Here, we’ve shared a brief guide to building a co-parenting plan for school holidays that puts the children’s needs at the forefront.
Step 1: Work together to create a plan
It is always best, if possible, for co-parents to communicate and work together to form plans that meet the needs of their child/children.
Putting issues you may have with one another aside to put your children’s needs first is always advised – to ensure they are protected from being used as a weapon to hurt the other parent or stuck in the middle of any acrimony between parents – which we sadly see far too often in family law cases which can lead to long-lasting emotional damage to the children.
Working together effectively can also mean plans can be made quicker, which will likely work much better for you, your family, the children and your ex-partner.
Whereas, if you are unable to come to mutually agreed decisions amongst yourselves and the courts get involved, the final court-ordered decision may be something which neither party would have chosen – and is less open to the flexibility that you may have if you work together without going to court. There are also extensive delays in the court system and this course of action will result in increased stress and legal fees being incurred, which could be better spent elsewhere for the benefit of the family. Court proceedings in relation to child arrangements should really be a last resort.
When creating your co-parenting plans, you should cover issues more than just day-to-day but also plan way in advance what you wish to do regarding school holidays, planned holidays away with each parent, Christmas, childcare, time with extended family etc. It’s also worth revisiting your plans from time to time as personal circumstances for each parent can change and children’s needs change as they grow older.
Step 2: Agree on holiday plans as soon as possible each year
The earlier you discuss and agree on holiday plans, the better it will be for all involved, as everyone knows what is happening and when, and there are no surprises later down the line. This involves discussing exactly when and where you would like to take your child – as far in advance as possible.
Often, with, for example, summer holidays, many separated parents alternate who will be taking the children away. Perhaps during the first week of the holidays, the children are away with one parent and the final week with the other parent. Scheduling holidays this way can help avoid arguments each year about who is taking the children on holiday and when. Similar types of scheduled plans to alternate Christmas often work well for co-parenting Christmas-time plans too.
During school holidays, it is also likely you will need to make a decision on childcare, so you can both remain in work – if this is the case, you’ll need to come to an agreement as to where that will be and who is covering the cost of this.
Step 3: Consider asking your children their thoughts
It’s important when creating your school holiday plans, that your children’s needs and wants are taken into account – and one of the best ways to do this in many cases, if they are old enough, is to ask them what they would like to do. However, you shouldn’t push your own emotions or views or feelings about your ex-partner onto your child, as this can lead to children just telling you what you want to hear.
Step 4: Support each other as co-parents
Although you may have a difficult or negative relationship with your ex-partner, it’s important to support their relationship with your child and not let your own feelings hinder their relationship. So, when holiday plans are being made, take into account what you can do to support the plan and how you can both work together to give the best holiday experience to your child.
For example, if your ex is planning a trip abroad for the summer – make sure you supply and sign any necessary travel documents in advance. Or if you’re the one taking the child on holiday – encourage them to call/message their other parent whilst they are away.
Putting any differences aside for the interests of your children, working together and showing you respect one another as parents, despite what led to your separation – will be beneficial to your child and allow them to enjoy the time they have with each parent.
Step 5: Set your plans in writing and seek advice
When it comes to child arrangements, making sure things are agreed and having agreements in writing can help avoid issues later down the line.
There are now fantastic tools available for separated parents to communicate and manage their co-parenting plans easily in one place. The Our Family Wizard app is one tool, which is regularly recommended by Cafcass and the courts now to help improve communication.
We’d always recommend speaking to a family law specialist who can advise and assist you on what steps to take when managing child arrangements. Particularly, if you are worried about any acrimony or your ex changing their mind about agreed plans or being difficult in future.
Even if you do seek legal advice, this doesn’t mean you will have to go to court, as family mediation would be recommended first and going to court should be a last resort in most cases.
Written by Carol-Anne Baker