Think of the kids during holidays, says legal expert

Parents who have split up and fall out over seeing their children during school holidays need to put their differences aside or risk leaving them “hugely traumatised”, warns a Leicester-based law firm.

Child contact disputes inevitably increase outside term times, with divorced or separated parents often arguing over how much time they get to spend with their children.

With the Easter holidays upon us, James Haworth, head of family at Lawson-West, has urged parents to put their children first, or risk negatively impacting their future.

“Children can feel pressured by parents to make a decision on who to spend time with and can then be hugely traumatised and emotionally affected by these kinds of disputes,” he explained.

“The law states that it is better for a child to have both parents in their life and I don’t think parents would disagree with this unless they are trying to purposely cause distress to each other.

“You can only grow up knowing both parents if you see them and anything that eases the situation for the child or protects them from a dispute between the adults is the best thing for everyone.”

"Holidays such as Easter can be a common friction point,"said James.

“We often find that the parent who the child lives with is reluctant to let them spend time with the other parent.

“Sometimes there are concerns about the child not being returned, not wanting them to go overseas on holiday with the other parent and worries that the child might experience homesickness. Having new partners involved can also cause friction.”

When couples with children split up, in most cases both parents have parental responsibility.  This means that all major decisions relating to a child must be agreed by both parents.

It is usually important that the parent with whom the child lives should allow a reasonable amount of contact between the child and the other parent.

And although it may seem fair to allow a child a free choice about contact with the other parent, leaving them to decide what to do is not always the best solution.

When there is still a disagreement between parents as to arrangements regarding their children, either can make an application for a Child Arrangements order, providing they have already attended a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting (MIAM), to see if a mediator can help reach an agreement without resorting to the court.

“The court process is a long and expensive one, both financially and emotionally,” continued James.  “If a judge has to make the final decision all control about what might happen is taken out of the child’s hands. Children can also be aware of such disputes and it can have a devastating effect on them. It is better for all concerned to reach agreement rather than having a solution imposed by the court.”

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