Emma Canham, a solicitor in Jacksons Law Firm’s family team, considers how the holiday period can put a strain on employees’ personal lives…

When parties separate it can be a very emotional and stressful time, especially when children are involved. In situations already heightened by hostility and anger, the school holidays may cause further problems.

We enter school holidays with many parents excited at the prospect of having some time off work and spending more time with their children. For separated or divorced couples this may mean there will be disputes over holiday contact. Due to work commitments, it is not always possible for parents to split the children’s time equally.

Initially parents may feel resentful about their children spending time with the other parent but these feelings should not be discussed with the children. Children can pick up on feelings and can be torn between parents, feel guilty and confused and may react by avoiding one parent or lashing out at the other.

If parents cannot decide on contact arrangements themselves then they may need to take legal advice. Before an application can be brought to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, it is now compulsory to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless there is a sufficient reason why you are exempt from doing so. This is conducted by an independent mediator to see if any agreement can be reached for child arrangements. If mediation is unsuccessful then court may be unavoidable.

The courts’ primary concern is the welfare of the children and a ‘welfare checklist’ is used within proceedings which includes the following;

• the wishes and feelings of the child dependent upon their age and understanding
• any effect upon the child in a change in their circumstances
• the child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristics the Court feels is important
• any risk of harm the child has suffered or is likely to suffer from
• the capability of each of the parents in meeting the child’s needs

The best solution is to try and keep matters as amicable as possible by attempting to reach a fair and reasonable agreement for the children.

A Judge would always encourage parents to try an agree a settlement because after all they know their children the best, if this is completely unavoidable then the court will make the final decision which may result in neither party being completely satisfied with the arrangements.

Our family solicitors – including Heather Snowdon, Beth Courtney-Walker and myself – are happy to help and offer a free no obligation 30-minute telephone call to discuss. Call us on 0191 2322574.

Emma Canham
Family Team, Jacksons Law Firm