Whilst Christmas can be an important time for family, it can also create stress, especially for separated parents who find it difficult to agree the child contact arrangements over the festive period.
The first priority is to ensure that the Christmas childcare arrangements are considered early to avoid arguments and upsets later. There are several arrangements that might work for a family, either alternating where the children spend Christmas day, year on year with either parent, or splitting the day so that the children see each parent for part of the Christmas day. Obviously, this will only work if you live close to one another. By making the arrangements between yourselves, you can ensure that they are suitable for your children and manageable for you both.
Communication between separated parents can be difficult and so if you find it difficult to talk to your former partner, then consider asking another family member or friend to be present during the discussions.
It is very important that you put the children first, not only in respect of what contact arrangements may suit them best during the festive break, but also in terms of coordinating your Christmas presents. Communication and compromise will best work for the children.
If your children are old enough they may have their own views on how they want to spend their Christmas holidays. It is important to listen to your children and to take on board their wishes, however, they must also know if these are not realistic or possible.
It might also be best to have any such arrangements set out in writing, so as to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, closer to the Christmas break.
Given that in the event of a disagreement about contact arrangements over Christmas, you may be unable to secure a Court date in time, it may also be worth considering the other options to this. You could always see a mediator to discuss the childcare arrangements over the Christmas period, or you could attend arbitration. Mediation is where you will meet with an impartial and neutral mediator who is often a family lawyer, and he/she will facilitate an agreement between you both. Alternatively, if you want someone to make a decision for you, an arbitrator who is a solicitor, barrister or retired Judge, will hear each of your proposals for the childcare arrangements over Christmas and will make a definitive decision upon these. Either way, the mediation and arbitration are likely to deliver an outcome, be it agreed or imposed upon you, this side of Christmas.
This article is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
This article is brought to you by Kathryn Coyle of our Maidenhead branch, You contact Kathryn or any of our family teams across 6 different locations using the form provided.