Holidays and other special days
Agreeing in advance how you'll arrange childcare during the holidays and discussing any planned trips away will help avoid any mix-ups or ill feelings.
Leave plenty time
There are lots of things to consider, including how you and your child's other parent will each arrange enough leave from work or other commitments and, if you're going away, travel and accommodation bookings.
Make sure you start discussions well in advance to avoid disappointments and the added pressure that comes with having to make last minute arrangements.
Bear in mind that you will probably need to re-visit your plans for school holidays on an annual basis, if not more frequently.
What do your children want?
Finding out how your children would like to spend their holidays is a good starting point, even if you can't manage to arrange things exactly as they'd like.
They may want to spend time with other family members too, such as grandparents, or at a friend's house.
Who, when and where?
You'll need to agree on a detailed plan of by whom, when and where your children will be cared for during the school holidays.
As with your discussions about living arrangements, try to be flexible and respect each other's needs, as well as your children's wishes.
A time for bonding
By taking your holidays at different times, you can both enjoy longer periods with your children, having fun and strengthening your relationship with them.
Longer school holidays can also be a time to rekindle relationships with family members they may not have had many chances to see since you separated.
Consider how much time they'll get to spend with each of you.
Don't leave it too late to discuss arrangements. To avoid any arguments or ill feelings, talk things through with your child's other parent before making any firm bookings.
How do you feel about your child's other parent taking the children away on holiday, perhaps abroad (see legal information on next page)? How will they feel if you take your children away somewhere?
It's important to recognise that either or both of you may feel very uneasy about this, especially if it comes as 'a surprise'. You can still make it a surprise holiday for the children, but your child's other parent needs to know what's going to happen, not least to stop plans clashing.
Talk things through well in advance to leave plenty of time to reach an agreement you're both happy with.
Going abroad – the legal position
Where both parents have parental responsibilities and rights ( PRRs), the consent of both parents (or guardians) is needed before a child can be taken out of the UK.
If a parent refuses (or refuses to release a child's passport if the have it), then a court order can be applied for. The court will consider what is in the best interests of the child. Click here for more information on PRRs and who has them.
Other 'special' days
Where and with whom your children will celebrate birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Mother's and Father's day and other religious or cultural festivals can become a source of friction. Discussing arrangements beforehand will help avoid disappointments and disputes.
Christmas and other major religious holidays in particular can become big issues. Some parents agree to alternate years when they spend these times with their children and have a special celebration on another day in those years where they don't.
Again, a good place to start is to ask your children what they would like to happen.
Parents who live together often talk through gift ideas for their children so they don't receive things they already have, don't need, won't want, or that someone else is getting for them – and so that children don't play parents off against one another!
For the same reasons, it's a good idea if parents who live apart can do the same.
Things to consider
- Have you talked to your children about what they'd like to happen during school holidays?
- How much time would they like to spend with each of you during school holidays?
- Who else will look after them, such as grandparents or trusted friends, during longer school holidays?
- Who will look after them when school is closed for single days or half-term holidays?
- Who will explain the arrangements you've agreed upon to your children?
- Can either of you take the children away on holidays, in the UK or abroad?
- How will trips away and holidays be paid for?
- Have you talked to your children about how they'd like to celebrate 'special' days like birthdays?
- What arrangements have you agreed about special days?
- Have you explained the arrangements you've agreed to your children and asked what they think about them?
"Makes me wonder how we ever managed before without a proper plan for the school holidays."
"I had a great summer this year. I had three weeks with my Dad and the rest with my Mum. Dad and his new girlfriend took me to Spain and Mum took me away for a week with my Gran."
What we've agreed
The Parenting Plan form is attached in pdf format (688KB)
"Every Christmas it's the same. First my Dad insists that I have a huge turkey lunch at his house, then a few hours later my Mum makes me eat the same thing for my dinner...I don't even like turkey!"
To request a hard copy of this publication, email YourParentingPlan@gov.scot