Top tips for divorced couples – summer holidays with children


Planning the school holidays can be difficult if you are divorced or separated.  There may be times when both parents want the children for the day and there is a conflict of plans. We set out below some practical suggestions to make planning the summer holidays as stress free as possible. 

Plan early

The earlier the summer holidays are planned the better.  It is important to reach an agreement as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made.  Identifying any issues which are not agreed earlier on provides you with more time to try and sort out those issues.


As with planning early, the earlier you communicate and discuss matters (if you are able to) with your ex-partner, the less stressful it will be for all involved.  Opening lines of communication can be hard depending on the relationship you have with your ex-partner, but it is important that you are able to communicate so that everyone has a clear understanding.

Any communications regarding the summer holidays should be with your ex-partner only and the children should not be involved.

If you are able to, you might want to sit down with your ex-partner to work through a schedule of contact for the summer.  A good place to start is with the things that are already agreed i.e. how much contact each parent will have or you may have already agreed on a holiday.  If you are finding one issue too difficult to agree on, then move on and come back to that at a later point.

Be flexible

There may be some days when both you and your ex-partner want the children.  There may need to be some compromises.  It is important to look at what would be in the best interests of the children and you will need to consider what the children would like to do.

Act in the interests of your children

Try to protect the children by keeping them out of conversations relating to contact.  Children can often feel conflicted and as though they need to choose between their parents.  It is important not to put the children in that position in the first place. 

Think about what is really in the best interests of the children. Keep the children at the forefront of your mind when making arrangements.

With that, be careful not to discuss matters with the children before you have reached an agreement.  You do not want to promise a day out at a theme park or zoo or a holiday and then not be able to deliver on it as you had not reached an agreement with your ex-partner first. If you cannot keep any promises, the children will likely be upset and disappointed.

Contact patterns

There is no right or wrong way to decide what pattern of arrangement you should agree to as this will depend on your personal circumstances. You should, however, always decide on what is in the best interests of your children. Some usual arrangements are as follows:

  • Week on/week off basis which essentially means the children will spend a week with each parent, alternating the weeks. 
  • Two weeks on/two weeks off/one week on/off would split the holidays so that each parent has the children for a two week period over the summer holidays and then again each parent will have the children for one week.  This works particularly well for those who want to take the children on holiday as sometimes the holiday might be for slightly longer than a week and this also allows the children time to prepare with that parent and allows for any issues which might arise i.e. a delay at the airport.  
  • Three weeks on/off is another option whereby one parent may have the children for the first half of the summer holidays and the other for the second half.  This might not work for some children, especially those who are younger, but can work for children who struggle to settle in.  This also works well if there is a great distance between you and your ex-partner’s homes as will mean less travelling time.  
  • Some parents continue the normal arrangements that are in place during term time through the school summer holidays which can assist if you need to work around different working patterns.

These suggestions may not be a solution for everyone, and the importance is on what works best for the children, and everyone involved.

Holidays in the UK

You do not need the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility (usually you and your ex-partner) to take your child on holiday in the UK. You should, however, agree the dates with your ex-partner first. If you already have a court order in place, then any holidays should be in your ordered contact time.

Holidays abroad

If you are travelling abroad, you must get the consent from everyone who has parental responsibility.  This means that you should open the lines of communication as soon as possible with your ex-partner and certainly before booking anything as you may find yourself in a situation whereby you have booked a holiday that your ex-partner does not consent to. Usually unless there is good reason, consent should not be unreasonably held by the other parent. The more information the other parent has i.e. details in respect of flights and accommodation, the more likely they are to agree to the holiday.

You may also want to think about indirect contact between the children and other parent, especially if the holiday is for a long period of time as they may be at home nervous as their children are in a different country. You can agree regular times for phone or video calls, so that the other parent can check in.


Handovers can be difficult, and it may be that handovers usually take place at school to limit the contact that you have with your ex-partner.  If handovers usually take place at school, it may be a good idea for handovers to take place in a neutral location rather than at home. This would help to provide a more relaxed situation for everyone involved. 

Any unresolved issues should not be discussed at handovers and certainly not in front of the children.  Handovers should be about the children and any important information that might need to be passed on in respect of the children. 

How Pinney Talfourd can help

If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding contact over the summer holidays, our family law specialists are here to assist you. Please contact our Family team for expert advice and support to help resolve any issues and ensure the best arrangements for you and your children.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Jade Mercer, Solicitor in the Family team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2024.



Jade Mercer


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