With the Easter break now upon us, many families will be considering a trip away.
While destinations abroad may be off limits for the time being, or at least accompanied by a mandatory quarantine period for the next few months, holidays in self-contained accommodation will be allowed from April 12.
Whether in self-catering accommodation or travelling to a second home, many families are likely to seize the opportunity to leave the house they have been confined to for over a year. In fact, the RAC estimates that 5.6 million will travel by car on the Bank Holiday weekend alone.
For separated parents, however, planning such a trip is far less straightforward and with the threat of Covid-19 still very much present, it is inevitable that some parents will disagree over whether such trips are appropriate.
What happens if separated parents disagree over an Easter holiday?
From fears over Covid-19 to worries about the other parent’s conduct, there are a variety of reasons why separated parents may argue over whether they can take their child(ren) on holiday.
In order to resolve such disputes, the first step should always be to try to work out any differences amicably. If this is not possible however, the Family Court can make a decision.
If it is necessary to seek permission from the court to be able to take your child(ren) away on holiday, a parent must apply for a Specific Issue Order. This can be done on an urgent basis if the holiday is coming up in the near future, although parents should be aware that there is no guarantee as to when the court will be able to list the matter. These orders are designed to resolve a specific issue which the parents may disagree upon – changing a child’s surname for instance or granting permission for one parent to take the child(ren) on holiday to a specific place for a certain period of time.
Unless there is a compelling reason as to why this is not possible, parents must fill out a C100 form which includes, as a prerequisite, that the applicant has to have attended a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), to explore whether the issue could be best solved outside of the court arena. This could involve engaging in a range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as having a mediator help the parents to try to agree on the best course of action.
Once this meeting has taken place, if the mediator conducting the MIAM has determined that ADR is not suitable, the application can be lodged with the court. When coming to a decision, the court’s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the child(ren). The court will also hear the reasoning of both parties and analyse the evidence they provide to support their position. This could, in the case of a holiday dispute based on the conduct of one party for instance, be evidence of that parent flouting lockdown rules or engaging in any activities that may put their child at risk of harm. However, without a good reason for opposing a holiday which can be backed up by sufficient evidence, and in the absence of any safeguarding concerns, the court is likely to grant the parent wanting to go on holiday permission to do so, particularly if it is to a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention (although this, of course, depends on the facts of each case).
Once all these factors have been considered, the court will make a decision, which will then be binding on both parties.
Vardags’ Children Team are highly experienced in resolving disputes between separated parents. If you would like to find out more about any of the issues covered in this article, Vardags offers a free consultation to qualifying individuals.