It can often take a lot of trust and courage to come to terms with the children’s first trip abroad. You may have fears that your ex has not cared for them for that length of time before, that they may not return from the trip, or that your child is too young to travel without you. These are common concerns.
Here are some tips from Relate about how to manage the emotions surrounding travel, as well as the practical side of proceedings.
Managing difficult feelings
- Try to remember how you managed difficult feelings when you first separated and draw on the same strengths.
- List your concerns – both practical and emotional ones. Sort out what feels most important to think about or act upon first.
- Without involving your child in discussions, try thinking about the trip from your child’s point of view. How might they feel if they miss out on an opportunity?
- Ask your ex to share any plans they have for the trip abroad, explaining that doing so will reassure you.
- Talk through how you feel about the trip with a friend or family member.
If you give permission it is very important to do the following:
- Ask for contact details for example, telephone number and address abroad and details of who else is joining them on holiday.
- Make sure your ex has contact details for the children’s doctor in the case of a medical emergency.
- Check your ex has travel and medical insurance that covers your child.
- Allow your child to e-mail/text/telephone you if they would like to.
Fiona also advises her clients going on holiday with their children to send a text to the other party to let them know of the children’s safe arrival once they’ve reached their destination. It takes little time and can be of significant goodwill and reassurance to the parent left back home alone.
Travelling overseas with your kids is logistically challenging – and more than a little exhausting – at the best of times. At the worst of times, the administrative burden can result in a check in-desk disaster and a cancelled trip. If you’re part of a blended family, in which one or both parents have different surnames to their children, this can only add to what is already a particularly stressful time.
Here are our top tips to sail through passport control this Easter…
1. Check the Expiry Dates!
Ensure your kids’ passports have at least 6 months left until expiry. Some destinations allow travel with less than 6 months, but many don’t. On a trip of a lifetime to Kenya, one family was turned around at Gatwick. After a couple of days their passports were renewed, but the knock-on expenses as well as stress levels were extremely high!
2. Separated or travelling solo? You need parental permission.
Most parents don’t know it’s a criminal offence to take your child abroad without the consent of anyone who also has parental responsibility (PR) for the child. Not all parents have PR but most probably do. If you are divorced, separated or just travelling without your spouse, even going to Edinburgh would be classified as an offence without the consent of the other parent. You’ll need to take a signed letter of consent from the child’s other parent in order to travel, as well as…
3. Birth Certificates!
Yes we know that carrying these around can be a real pain, particularly for parents with blended families. However the Home Office recommends you carry a child’s birth certificate so that you can prove you are the parent. In fact, South Africa has made child birth certificates a mandatory document for entry. In recent years UK Passport Control have become increasingly vigilant about checking parental authenticity to prevent child trafficking. This is little comfort to one respondent to our travel poll:
‘This happened to me. It was not helped by the children’s’ blank faces when asked what relationship they were to me! I made sure I flew with a letter from their father after that.’
– Fiona H.
Of course these days it is entirely usual for parents not to share a name with their spouse partner or their children. It may be the 21stcentury, but after a long flight these interactions are still commonplace:
‘I was quizzed coming back into Heathrow after an 11 hour flight with three kids. Passport Control asked me to quickly rattle off the dates of birth of all my kids, then gave me a stern talking to about travelling with a different name to my children’
– Lisa D.
We can all be forgiven for muddling up dates and mislaying paperwork after a long haul flight with the kids. That’s why Fiona McLeman suggests:
4. Screenshot Documents on your Phone
A handy shortcut for breezing through passport control. The official advice is to carry the originals or certified copies, however if all your other documentation is in order, a birth certificate photo may well suffice.
5. Get multiple copies certified
Instead of carrying the precious originals, you can ask a solicitor to arrange certified copies for you at a minimal charge. Everyone with PR should have certified copies for each child, and then the originals can be safely stored away at home.
Coming next: Are your kids travelling abroad with your ex? How to manage difficult feelings, and practical considerations.
FM Family Law invited me to meet the team on their Bi-annual Company Day, to see what really makes them tick. What I found was a highly energized group of women, dedicated to supporting their clients and their families, but moreover, 6 women with a wealth of life experience and a diverse set of skills, far more deeply reaching their professional accomplishments.
All of the lawyers told me it was the personal aspect of Family Law that really drew them to the profession. ‘It doesn’t pay as well as other areas of law typically yet it is the most challenging. You deal with people in crisis. Not contracts or buildings.’
It’s this challenging yet ultimately rewarding aspect which captured the imaginations of FM Family’s lawyers – from Karen, practicing for 34 years since answering an advert for a trainee legal executive aged just 18 – to Sue, who began to advocate for the needs of students during her law degree as Vice President of Education and Representation at the Student Union. There’s an emotional connection to cases, Karen explains, and all the associated quirks of dealing with real people. Sue nods in agreement. Early experiences using her problem solving skills and her nurturing side stood her in good stead for a future in Family Law.
Nevertheless, ‘you have to be resilient’ says Fiona. Dealing with real people, the most challenging thing can be to balance so many competing aspects of various aspects of the law (not just family law) with the complexities of human behaviors. You also have to be ‘pretty tough and robust as well as kind, patient, available and responsive’
Fiona stepped away from her role as head of the Family Law team at a large Cambridge law firm to set up her own firm in 2011. Christina was on the opposing side in court in those days, but the connection when they worked against each other led to Christina being the first to join Fiona at FM Family Law in 2014. I get a sense that this partnership is built upon an understanding of balance: professionally accomplished women with families, who were uniquely able to empathise with the needs of their clients, whilst creating their own family-focused working environment.
Certainly their own families influenced their career progressions. Christina, determined to build a career to support her young family, enrolled at ARU and has been Cambridge based from the start. Starting her own firm certainly gave Fiona the flexibility she needed to work around family commitments, too – an ethos shared by FM Family Law’s employees. ‘It’s different from anywhere I’ve worked before’ says Kate, Cambridge Office Manager, ‘Fiona recognizes that juggling family life can be hard’. Their kids went to the same village school, which is how they met. Again, a personal connection that led to Fiona asking Kate to join the firm when Kate’s 25 year tenure at a national bank ended. Whilst keeping the office impeccably organised, Kate still manages to make it home to spend time with her children – who are now well into their teens.
In her time away from the office, Kate and her husband go for Sunday morning runs along the Cambridge riverside stopping at some favorite local cafes to re-fuel: No. 30, Stir or Fitzbillies for coffee and a sticky Chelsea bun.
Jenny is a runner too – with a fiercely competitive streak and a history of some rather stellar half marathon finishing times. Having studied Interior Design, Jenny started her own business ‘Little Bird Interiors’ which she now enjoys as a past time only for very special gifting occasions. Karen takes walking trips in the Highlands with her Collie dog, her Sprocker, and partner of 19 years.
In their desire to help people in the hugely emotive field of Family Law, taking a step back is of the utmost importance. As Karen explains, a successful family lawyer must remain calm. They must listen carefully, and ultimately recognize that they themselves are not at the centre of the apex – it’s the client who is the priority. Meeting FM Family Law I’ve come to understand the challenge of being a good family lawyer, a balancing act of competing interests and measured judgments, grounded upon many years of experience. They work daily with families in crisis:
‘a wife heartbroken after 27 years of marriage, a husband desperate to reconcile, a spouse desperate to retain their lifetime built-up pension, as well as the interests of the immediate family supporting those clients.’
Whilst on the subject of the balancing act, Fiona tells me her early career as a waitress stood her in good stead. Embarking on her gap year during the 1980s’ recession before law school, Fiona easily embraced the hospitality industry – as well as the tips! – that came with high-end service. Working at Pizza Hut and then Adlards Restaurant in Norfolk (now Roger Hickman’s), Fiona’s love of food and restaurants was established and it certainly continues to this day. As a career, hospitality is all about people, and how to make them happy. What the restaurant industry also taught Fiona was how to support real people and their competing demands, whilst remaining commercial and cost effective. There’s a parallel between helping people in a busy restaurant, constantly prioritizing customers with different wishes and demands at different times, with helping divorcing clients.
‘You have to have ten pairs of eyes, be available, constantly reprioritizing and never drop the ball’
The FM Family law team were heading out that very evening to celebrate the team’s achievements: cocktails followed by dinner in Cambridge at Parker’s Tavern and Varsity Restaurant. Before they rounded-up proceedings, they told me about the importance of stepping away from work to focus on life. It can be an intense and all-encompassing career, but as Sue tells me, ‘my experiences before entering law truly enriched me as a person’ and, she adds, that her year out made her a better lawyer. After another year of advising supporting, mediating and resolving, the FM Family Law team head off to dinner together. Before Law School it was the acclaimed US TV show Ally McBeal that first inspired Sue: the vision of a successful day’s work rewarded in a smart Manhattan bar. It shaped up to be a far different – and more rewarding – career than she had first envisaged in the early days of Law School. But tonight at Parker’s Tavern, cocktail in hand, each of the FM Family Law team can reflect on their own achievements, safe in the knowledge that they have struck an excellent balance. But there is always more work to do. And on Monday they will be back at their desks in Cambridge & Norwich, relishing the challenges of their caseloads once again.
Author: Katie Underwood, Writer & Director at Kunderwoo.com
If you think a separation is on the cards, considering your finances should be one of the top priorities. The timing of your separation really does matter where money is concerned.
‘Many of my clients take advice well before any separation. Usually their spouse does not know, and no decisions had been made’ says Fiona McLeman. ‘They want to know what to expect and the practical steps they can take to best protect themselves. They may well not have considered tax issues. It’s then quite usual to see those clients again 6-12 months later. That’s when, not only are they emotionally ready for divorce, but also better prepared in practical and financial terms’
Here are some important factors to consider well before you walk away.
Tax tax tax
When you are married you can make tax free transfers between each other without attracting Capital Gains Tax. Once you separated, you have until the end of that tax year to make tax free transfers. This is particularly important where assets such as property are concerned. “Even if you continue to live under the same roof, you may be ‘on the clock’ if you have taken formal legal steps towards a separation. I always advise my clients to exercise caution and consider delaying a separation until after 4 April if that is feasible” says Karen Fox.
If you’ve got a buy to let, don’t assume you can move into it on separation. Check the mortgage terms. Many mortgage companies won’t agree to this. ‘Many clients make the mistake of thinking that they own the property and can just move in, but it may be a serious breach of the mortgage terms that usually prohibit landlords from occupying their own property’ says Christina Hale of FM Family Law.
Maintain spending patterns
You will need to produce a budget as part of the disclosure process and it’s important to show your usual spending, especially if maintenance is under consideration. Although it may feel counterintuitive to maintain your outgoings when finances are most likely to be under pressure, it’s necessary to help assess the correct level of spousal maintenance. Don’t significantly decrease your spending or your quality of life to save money in the short term.
Get financial advice
You’re going to be making some important decisions about your money. We recommend advice from experts in their field such as Fiona Sharp and Stephanie Clark at www.vervefinancialplanning.co.uk “if you need help with your post separation budgeting or clear direction through a pensions maze then I can guide you” says Fiona Sharp.
You’ve got joint banking?
The Money Advice Service suggests that if you have joint accounts or loans with your ex-partner, you should contact your bank or loan provider to explain what has happened. This is especially important if your break-up isn’t amicable. However, warns Sue Bailey, ‘be wary that banks can freeze joint bank accounts if they consider there is a dispute between you and your spouse. This can be hard to undo, as well as potentially costly in the legal costs of unravelling a frozen bank account and reorganizing finances’
Watch out for the credit cards / overdraft
You are each jointly and severally liable for any joint debt. If your partner plunders the joint account and it goes overdrawn, you will be liable for it all.
Prepared to be full and frank?
As part of your divorce process, you will both be expected to give full and frank disclosure about your finances. You should not be able to keep assets, investments or funds hidden. Typically the financial disclosure process looks back only over the last 12 months when your bank statements for that period will be disclosed. Is there anything there you might not want disclosed? Watch out though as in some cases, a longer period of financial disclosure may be ordered by the court.
Don’t assume that you can go on a forensic fishing exercise. There are strict rules about how to deal with financial papers you’ve got hold of that don’t belong to you. Take advice and deal with the disclosure process properly.
FM Family Law are experts in giving pragmatic and sensible legal advice about the law, but also how best to prepare for separation: legal and financial.
Fiona McLeman founded FM Family Law in 2011 (then known as Fiona McLeman Family Law). The name change came about in 2014/5 when the size of firm grew beyond expectation. On opening a second office in Norwich, Fiona and the team felt that it was no longer appropriate to define the firm so markedly with Fiona’s full name. Fiona’s vision in 2011 was towards long-term employee retention, allowing (what is currently) an all-female team to work flexibly, whilst fully engaging in both business and family responsibilities. It’s a balance Fiona wasn’t able to achieve as well in her previous firms, and indeed, business ownership can give women the autonomy they need to manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously
“My vision of owning my own law firm came to me in the wee hours while tending to my then 6mth old. What’s made it the success story it is, was to have modest expectations and to grow exponentially and organically. This allowed me to be a hands on mother, and be at the school gate which is important to me, as much as to be a great lawyer and business owner. With the right support in place I think you can be both.”
Here are some other local success stories.
Jan Godfrey MBE and Susan Hollingsworth founded Wayland Women in Business in 2006. They were struck by the number of women who were finding it difficult to compete in the world of work.
‘Some worked in a male dominated field and could not get their voice heard; some were juggling home and family with work and missed out on opportunities for networking and learning; some were bumping their heads on glass ceilings, finding that however good they were at their job, they could not get promotion beyond a certain level; some simply recognised that they lacked the confidence to step onto the next rung.’
13 years on they have created a network of women who share ideas and good practice, develop client contacts and learn new skills. Meeting bi-monthly at Broom Hall Country Hotel in Norfolk, their numbers are steadily increasing – spurred on by a packed out seasonal events, like the Christmas lunch attended by Karen of FM Family Law this year.
Building networks of inspirational businesswomen is key to boosting the numbers of future female business leaders. Kelly Molson, founded digital agency Rubber Cheese in 2003. In 2017 followed Mob Happy, an organization to support female agency owners and to help them inspire up-and-coming leaders. They invest in enterprise days and confidence building workshops in primary schools – aimed at ultimately increasing the percentage of female business owners. Kelly was shortlisted for the DevelopHER Awards for her commitment to raise the profile of women in technology, and, she says, ‘competition can be celebrated’.
‘I’m a huge supporter of other independent agencies, in fact anyone who’s got the balls to set up on their own. I can learn from them as much as they can learn from me’
Kelly is dedicated to helping women in their professional development, but she also shares her personal story to support people struggling with fertility issues. Celebrating 15 years as an agency, Rubber Cheese has channeled its energies into raising £15k for the Tamba, Twins and multiple Births association‘ because they helped Kelly get through 2017’. That year, after a difficult IVF journey, Kelly and her partner Lee lost their twin girls, Lily May and Ava Allison. Through fundraising and her determination to speak publicly about their profound grief, Kelly shows us that the personal and the private ‘are all part of us whether we like it or not, and the things we’ve been affected by will shape the course of our lives forever.’
Recognising the often unspoken difficulties that people face in their personal lives through her very public profile, Kelly hoped to relieve some of the isolation faced by women in similar circumstances. Kelly is constantly reaching out to build links, in recognition that support is a vital part of our personal – as well as professional – journeys.
Indeed, writes Jo Kruczynska, building a strong team to support you as a business-owner is key.
‘I would recommend getting a team structure in place to ensure that you are able to step away from the business when you need to … Being able to step back and see the bigger picture is so important, and not something you can do when you’re getting up at dawn and working 70 + hours a week.’
Jo organised sell-out supper clubs and baked Cambridge’s most sought-after cakes, before founding Afternoon Tease Cafe. The popularity of the café was unrivalled, with food made completely from scratch and queues out of the door on weekends. Jo devoted the 4 years of Afternoon Tease solely to her business, and put holidays, time-off and socialising on hold. ‘This was ok for a while’ she says, ‘but was not sustainable for me personally’. To city-wide dismay, Afternoon Tease closed its doors in 2017, but Jo has found a better way of structuring her business
‘I now have my life back and am enjoying a flexible way of working…I’m not afraid of working hard but being able to take a break every now and again is great!’
Jo now takes cake orders @AfternoonTease and supplies some of the cities most popular venues.
Running a business is characterized by this tension between flexibility and pressure. Particularly in hospitality, where recruitment is a challenge, the freedom of self-employment is often over-ridden by the all-consuming nature of day-to-day operations.
‘I find time management can be a challenge’ writes Faye Morray-Jones Knight of Novi ‘especially when I go in the building and notice lots of things that need doing, so tend to get caught up, rather than doing my own work.’
Faye and husband Matt have worked hard since the business rebranded in 2014, developing the Novi brand into a ‘unique inspirational venue with two identities’: daytime café and kitchen, and nighttime cocktail bar – open from 9am to 3am.
The creative opportunities afforded by such a versatile venue are enormous, and today as the Bookings and Events Manager, Faye’s job varies from wedding parties to corporate bookings. For 14 years, her husband Matt ran the venue:
‘It was particularly difficult when the children were younger and Matt was often working long, unsociable hours. At the time I worked elsewhere, so we would often work opposite shifts in order to share childcare but the business gave us the flexibility to do this. ‘
Just like the multiple identities of Novi, women in business have several selves to juggle. It’s important to recognise that we are many things, and that our experience goes far beyond the day job. These women show that the limitations sometimes placed on us by inflexible roles can be overcome by finding our niche. That means not being afraid to step away when things aren’t right, to etch out a new role based on our strengths, and to form strong partnerships with those around us for support.