Do you know the law on school holiday contact?
- AuthorJoanne Harriman
Most school holidays in England and Wales will commence from Friday 21st July 2023. This starts a 6-week (or so) Summer holiday period which, at the best of times, can create stress and anxiety for parents. Will the children have fun, will they be fulfilled, will they go back to school ok? They are all justified questions that parents may ask throughout August. If those parents are separated, there can be additional stressors which can cause concern. Do you know what is and is not ‘allowed’ in accordance with the law? There may be legal implications that you have not considered…
- Does your child have a different surname to you? If so, some airport officials can require evidence that the child’s other parent (or both parents if it is an Aunty, Uncle or other relative taking the child on holiday) has permitted the child to go abroad. A simple letter, text or email confirming the knowledge would help to alleviate any unnecessary questions at border control. If you have a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, that will also greatly assist.
- Can I take my child on holiday? If both parents share parental responsibility, both should be consulted on any holidays. It would be good practice to attempt to agree any holidays well in advance of booking, so as not to cause distress or late decisions having to be made. If there is an existing Child Arrangements Order which allows for a child(ren) to live with one parent, they can them on a holiday (for up to 28 days) without having to seek the permission of the other parent.
- Who has parental responsibility? If you gave birth to the child and there has been no removal of PR: parental responsibility (via adoption, care proceedings) you have automatic PR for that child. If you are married at the time of the child’s birth or a father named on the birth certificate, you are also afforded parental responsibility and thus hold the same rights as you, as their mother.
- Can I remove parental responsibility? The Courts are reluctant to remove PR from a parent as this could impact on the welfare of any involved child(ren). A child should always know, where possible, their heritage, life story and history and removing one parent from that history can be detrimental. Due to this, there usually must have been a serious incident, akin to murder or serious assault before the Court will remove PR from any parent.
- How do I get an Order? If you wish to ask the Court to consider an Order, there are several options available:
- Child Arrangements Order – this considers where a child should live and with whom they should have contact. Contact can take many forms including face-to-face contact, or indirect contact by letter, exchange of gifts or telephone calls.
- Specific Issue Order – this clarifies any specific issue which arises, that the parents cannot agree on. For example, if one parent wishes to raise the child as vegan or has an opinion on which school the child attends, but the other disagrees, the Court must decide based on the facts of the case as to which is most appropriate and in the best interests of the relevant child. Similarly, if one parent disagrees with the other taking their child on holiday, a specific issue Order would be the only course of action.
- Prohibited Steps Order – this prohibits the actions of a specific individual, who must hold PR for the child. For example, the Court may prohibit them from removing the child from School/Nursery without your permission
- Can I make an agreement without Court? If you wish to vary an existing Order or make an agreement prior to Court, you can absolutely do so. First, contact the other parent and attempt to agree a plan forward. If both parents agree, there is no need for Court involvement.
If you require assistance with liaising with an ex-partner, arranging contact or obtaining an Order, contact us on 01724 281616 and a member of the team will be happy to help. If you are concerned about any of the above, it is better to always seek the advice of a Solicitor.