The school summer holidays are here, with schools in the Highlands having finished up on 25 June for a seven-week break. Hopefully the sun will be shining here as most of us will be having a 'staycation'.
With 93% of fathers and 77% of mothers in Scotland in employment* the weeks approaching the summer holidays are often a time of significant planning. Childcare and activities for the children need to be arranged around precious holidays and family time.
For parents who are separated the task of making summer holiday arrangements can be even more difficult. Sharing the care of children over the long summer break can be difficult and consideration often has to be given to the wishes of the other parent when plans are being made.
As a child and family law specialist practising in Inverness and across the Highlands of Scotland I have, over the years, assisted many clients with making arrangements for their children over the summer holidays.
Here are my top tips for negotiating summer holiday plans for your children:-
1. Plan early
Don't leave it until the week or even fortnight before the summer holidays start to begin making plans with the other parent. The earlier the planning begins the more time you will both have to think about what you want and to express that to the other parent. If left too late, the added pressure of time can cause tension.
2. Be clear
Think about what you consider to be the best arrangement for the children and clearly articulate that to the other parent. It may be best to use a calendar to mark out the dates that you think it best that the children are in your care and then the other parent can mark down the dates that they think it best that the children are with them. The more clarity there is from the outset the lower the chances are of any misunderstandings.
3. Be flexible
You may not be able to take the children on holiday over your ideal dates. The other parent may have a working schedule or holiday rota which means that they are only able to take specific time off during the summer. It is important that both parents have an opportunity to express to each other what their preferences and options are and that those are explored. The hope would be that this will result in the children enjoying time with each parent over the summer.
4. Take the children's views into account
It is easy to get bogged down in negotiating the details of summer holiday arrangements and forget what the ultimate aim is - to ensure that the children are safe and happy during their summer holidays. It may not always be necessary for children to spend exactly the same amount of time with each parent over the summer. What most children will want is to be heard, looked after and have fun.
5. Try not to worry
Sometimes negotiating holiday arrangements between separated parents is not easy. If you experience difficulties seek assistance from a trusted family law solicitor. It may help to look over our child contact route map to gain clarity as to the options available and possible next steps.
*ONS Families and the Labour Market, UK 2019