Christmas Contact Arrangements For Separated Parents

  • Author: Gemma Thew
  • Posted on: 23rd October 2018
  • Posted in: Blog

Have you planned your Christmas contact arrangements?

Christmas is just around the corner and for many this brings feeling of joy and merriment. For others however it can bring feelings of dread and worry as they know it is another year of arguing with the ex about where the children will be staying and what time they will spend with each parent.

Here at Crosby & Woods we often deal with last minute calls from desperate parents seeking legal advice on the child arrangement over the festive season.

Unfortunately there are limits to what we can do at such a late stage and we have therefore produced a list of tips that we hope will help parents in the lead up to the festive period.

Our Top 5 Tips for Child Contact Arrangements this Christmas

1. Don’t leave it until the last minute – while it may seem far away and as though you have plenty of time there will be limits to what any legal advisor can do for you if you wait until the last minute to contact a professional. If an application to the court is necessary this can take time and you should therefore always allow at least 3 months to ensure you have sufficient time to refer the matter to a judge if necessary. Unfortunately, in the absence of an agreement between the parties and if alternative dispute resolution options fail a court order may be a last but necessary step.

2. Try and remain child focused – while your own feelings are going to be strong on this topic and you may feel that the situation is grossly unfair do consider how the children may be feeling and what they want to do. Ultimately the best interests of the children are paramount and therefore it is always advisable to take a step back and look at the situation through their eyes.

3. Communicate – wherever you can try and communicate with the other parent, after all you are always going to be parents together and the more you communicate the better the chances of you being able to agree arrangements together. Communication really is key. If you find direct communication difficult try email and avoid any inflammatory language or accusatory remarks (no matter how tempting).

4. Be prepared to compromise – when parties separate compromise is inevitable and do bear in mind that any arrangement is rarely going to satisfy either parents idea of the ideal outcome. Compromise on both sides will hopefully mean that both parents can achieve at least some of their ideal arrangement.

5. Try and reach an agreement that will last – to avoid the need to address the same issues year after year we suggest trying to reach an arrangement that can be repeated or alternated. This not only helps parties plan accordingly each year but will relieve stress and mean the children are clear on what they can expect.

If, despite your best efforts you cannot agree the child arrangements consider the following steps:

1. Consult a solicitor – as professionals we can explain the options, timescales and costs at an early stage tailored to your specific circumstances so you can best plan the most appropriate way forward for you.

2. Consider alternative forms of resolution - such as mediation or arbitration. Often deemed quicker and cheaper ways of resolving disputes they can helps parties work towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

3. Application to the court - As a last resort an application to the court can be made where a judge will consider both parties positions and order whatever child arrangements he/she considers is in the best interests of the children by considering the various principals under the children act.

What are typical arrangements considered by parents?

Every case and every family is different, what works for one family won’t work for another. Generally speaking however the following are just a few examples of arrangements that families can consider:

1. Alternating Christmas Day each year so the children can enjoy Christmas Day with one parent one year and the other parent the following year.

a. Benefits:

i. both parties get to see the children for a full day every other year

ii. Children can stay in one place for the whole day

iii. The children often benefit from having a ‘second Christmas’ with the other parent on Boxing Day.

b. Disadvantages

i. one parent doesn’t get to see the children at all every other year (although hopefully a Skype call can be arranged)

ii. the children may miss out on time with half or step siblings.

2. Splitting Christmas day between the parents.

a. Benefits

i. both parents get to see the children on Christmas day.

ii. The children get to celebrate with both parents

b. Disadvantages

i. the children will be expected to travel between two homes on Christmas Day

ii. The children can be reluctant (especially at a young age) to be taken away from new toys and other family members. iii. Boxing Day arrangements will also have to be considered

3. Agreeing the same arrangement each year. Sometimes, due to extended families etc parties will agree that the children always spend Christmas Day with the same parent and Boxing Day with the other parent.

a. Benefits:

i. the children have consistency and know where they stand every year

ii. the children will often enjoy two Christmas celebrations

b. Disadvantages

i. one parent will miss out on the Christmas Day magic every year.

Next Steps

Don't leave it too late to make arrangements to see your children this Christmas, now is the perfect time to get a plan in place.

To find out more about Contact Arrangements at Christmas please speak directly to one of our experienced and friendly family lawyers either by phone on 01273 734 600 or email advice@crosbywoods.co.uk.