Contact at Christmas
- AuthorJoanne Harriman
Christmas contact arrangements can cause heightened emotions between separated parents when deciding who will have the children and when throughout the festive period. There is unfortunately no magic formula to decide when the children will spend time with each parent, and it is always important to remember that every family unit is different, what may work for one family may not work for another. It is always important to remember to never make the children decide, as doing so can cause the children unnecessary anxiety and stress at what is supposed to be a joyous time.
We have put together some information on the common arrangements for you to consider, what to do if arrangements cannot be agreed upon, and keep reading for some top tips from our family law solicitors.
Depending on location, if separated parents live close to each other it may be an option to consider both parents seeing the children on Christmas Day. For example, handovers could take place after Christmas dinner or after Christmas tea. Alternatively, if the parents are amicable Christmas day could be shared together, with one parent attending Christmas day as a visitor.
It may work for the children to spend Christmas day with one parent and then boxing day with the other. This can be a set arrangement or parents can alternate each year.
Another option is for the children to spend the first half of the Christmas break at their primary home and the second half at their second home. This can be a set arrangement or parents can alternate each year.
If Contact Arrangements Cannot be Agreed
If contact arrangements cannot be agreed, the first step would be to arrange a referral to mediation, to see if it would be possible to come to an arrangement with the help of a mediator who is a neutral third party. Mediation allows the parents to have more control over any decisions that are made, though it is important to bear in mind that decisions made at mediation are not legally binding.
If mediation is unsuccessful, then the only option would be for the appropriate court application to be submitted to begin proceedings. It is always worth remembering to be open-minded and be prepared to compromise, as proceedings can become quite costly!
Top tips for a Merry Christmas from our Family Law Solicitors!
“My advice would be to try to plan ahead if possible and ensure that arrangements are in place to ensure that children can spend time with both parents, and extended family at this special time. There may be disagreements between the adults and issues to resolve but put those aside over the festive period and keep any conflict or tensions away from the children.”
Laura (Associate Solicitor)
“My advice would be for parents to remember that children should not be used as weapons or tools during any contact arrangements, but especially at Christmas. Christmas is a time for family, a time of the year which children look forward to and get to celebrate, forgetting the breakdown in their family relationships. If amicable contact can be agreed upon beforehand, that is always best. Then, the children know where they will be and can become excited and plan for how they will spend Christmas. Try utilising family members to act as a third party ‘negotiator’ if they are willing or you could use a ‘contact book’ to write down thoughts in. Remember, first and foremost, the children deserve a conflict-free Christmas so agreements made in advance will help.”
Tracy (Associate Solicitor)
“Christmas is a special time of year for everyone but more importantly the children. Ensuring that children spend some time over the festive season with their loved ones is important however it can be a stressful time for separated parents, physically, emotionally, and financially. My top tips for trying to facilitate contact over Christmas would be to try to stay calm, focus on the children and what they would want and what is best for them (but do not ask them to choose), keep channels of communication open and set arguments aside. Be flexible and agree on a plan, preferably in writing and as much in advance as possible to reduce the scope for any confusion. Lastly, make the most of the time that the children are not in your care to relax and re-charge to enable you to be the best parent that you can be.”
Everyone at Symes Bains Broomer would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!