Are you facing the summer holidays dreading numerous fraught hand overs, the possibility of passports not being handed over and/or worried about your children being away with the other parent and not keeping in contact?
Here are some simple but effective tips which may help:-
- When looking at holiday plans try, if at all possible, to either sit down with the other parent over a coffee in a neutral place with a calendar and plan when the children will be with each of you. Sometimes it is difficult in the early days of separation – or later down the line if you each have new partners – who in turn have arrangements to sort out, and therefore if you can do this a 2-3 months in advance if at all possible this can lessen the prospect of conflict and fraught conversations. If face to face contact is difficult then try a shared parenting app. There are a number you can download free from the internet. Some apps can be as simple as a calendar which you input dates into so that you both know where your children will be. Some apps have additional resources and you can write notes and have dialogue over hand over via the app.
- Whichever communication forum you use, keep dialogue neutral. Try to avoid negative and angry exchanges over texts and other on-line messaging sites and keep exchanges simple, courteous and neutral. If communication is really bad then either use an on-line app or set up a dedicated email which you can agree you will both only use for the purposes of making practical arrangements or passing on practical information for your children. This can be particularly useful if communication with you ex partner makes you feel nervous and you have had to block the other party from your work or personal email and personal phone.
- If you are traveling abroad with your children, or your ex partner is, then take a letter signed by the other parent giving consent to travel, just in case. This can be helpful if you are traveling to a non EU destination and/or your children do not share your surname. If you have had a difficult relationship and you are worried about the other party not being happy with you travelling abroad then seek legal advice with plenty of time to spare so that if necessary an urgent application can be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order to allow you to travel. Similarly if you are concerned about the other party wanting to take your children away and you have serious safeguarding concerns about them doing so then again it is very important to seek specialist family law advice at an early stage. If you have agreed travel arrangements then in terms of passports it is useful to have a photograph of your children’s passport so that you can book the holiday and check in on-line if the children are traveling back to you and you are more or less going away with them yourself the next day or within 48 hours of their returning to you. If you are not travelling back to back then try to agree that you will hand over passports at least 7 days prior to travel to take away the anxiety of the passports not being returned and last minute difficulties arising.
- If you are wanting certain key information about flights and accommodation and travel dates and times when your children are with the other parent then it is good practice to reciprocate. Provision of information can reduce anxiety for both of you and mean there are less negative exchanges and fraught telephone calls.
- If you have young children then try to agree the parameters of communication between the children and the other parent, or between yourself and the children when they are with the other parent, when you or they are away. It is a good idea to facilitate a similar level of communication to what you are seeking yourself. If communication is very poor then consider purchasing a simple contact telephone which you can operate on a pay as you go basis and this can either travel with your children, or have one each. You can turn the telephone on at a certain time each day for a certain period and you are perhaps not then worried about intrusive calls and texts to your personal phone. If children are older and have their own telephone then this can be easier.
- If communication is difficult and conflict is high then perhaps choose a neutral venue for handover. If there is a lot of negativity then try to keep dialogue centred on the children and try to avoid any negative exchanges in front of the children. Children don’t like mum and dad arguing whatever their age. It upsets them, even if they don’t always show it.
If any of the above strike a chord and you need help or if any of the following apply :-
- Not sorted out arrangements for summer holidays and are struggling to do so?
- Worried about travelling abroad and you do not have the other parent’s consent?
- Worried about difficult decisions such as making choices of primary and secondary schools and facing conflict over such decisions ?
- Children due to start at a new school in September and current contact arrangements need to change ?
- You may wish to consider family mediation to help you to resolve matters.
We offer fully accredited family mediation. Sally Clark is a highly experienced family law mediator and child consultant, which means that Sally often speaks to children as part of the mediation process to find out what they are finding difficult and to give children a voice. Litigation in family law should be seen as a last resort and can worsen already difficult situations.
If however you have an urgent legal issue concerning you r children or would like some specific legal guidance as to what your options on a legal advice basis are then contact Sally or Alison on 01423 637 272 or 01274 861 096 for a free initial consultation.
We can help make sure your children are safe and put them at the centre of all important decisions.