Children during school holidays: A family lawyers perspective

Tuesday 30th July 2019

‘I’m bored”…. are the words that can be heard now the School holidays are upon us.

It is difficult to keep children entertained for the 6 weeks holidays, and for many parents this involves a mixture of finding child care and taking holidays.

If taking holidays in the UK, where parents are separated, this usually does not cause any difficulties.  Where one parent wishes to take the children abroad, unless there is an existing Child Arrangements Order allowing this,  it is essential that the other parent, with Parental Responsibility consents.  It is advisable to obtain that consent in writing, which can be shown if there are difficulties at the airport or whilst abroad.   In situations where a parent with parental responsibility does not consent, an application to court for a Specific Issue Oder would need to be made. 

The Court usually take the view that a child will benefit from the experience of a family holiday abroad, provided certain information and provisions are met, and there are no safeguarding issues.  If consent of a parent is being unreasonably withheld, the Court can make an Order allowing the child to be removed from the UK for the purpose of the holiday.  The Court will view what is in the best interest of the child.

It is advisable to try and reach agreement, well in advance of the holiday,  to avoid the need for court intervention.

Parents also  often wonder when a child can legally be left on their own.  There is no legal limit in the UK,  and the Government and NSPCC  recommend that children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone, and under 16’s should not be left alone overnight.

Children mature at different rates, and it is advisable to consider this, and how they would cope if there was an emergency, and to ensure they were not going to be at risk of any harm.  It is a personal decision, and is advisable to build up the time a child is left alone gradually, and only when they are confident and mature enough to do so.

Before you know it, it’ll be time to go back to school!

Melanie Young,

Head of Family Law