I wish it could be Christmas every day!
So sang Wizzard, but leaving aside the health implications of eating a large roast dinner every day all year long, what makes Christmas a special time for many families is that it only happens once a year!
For separated families, this can make Christmas an extra challenge, usually in ensuring that children can spend time with both their parents. The times that children usually spend with each parent tends to change, as Christmas and the days around it can fall on any day of the week. Inevitably, separated couples have to manage this, and this can lead to disagreement particularly at this time of the year when emotions can run high!
So, here are what we hope are some useful tips to try and minimise conflict and help you to work together for your children’s best interests:
It is about your child not you
This may sound obvious but the priority is to ensure that the children can spend time with both their parents over Christmas; it is not about one parent seeing the child when they want.
Rotate the arrangements
Whatever arrangements the child enjoys one year, vary them the next so that the child can enjoy the same arrangements with the other parent the following year.
This may mean that one family will have to enjoy its usual Festive traditions (such as opening presents) on a day other than Christmas Day, but from the child’s perspective they can enjoy this experience twice!
Plan in advance
Try and talk about this as early as possible and make it part of the children’s arrangements. It may seem strange discussing Christmas in peak summer, but time inevitably passes faster than we think, and couples may find themselves suddenly at loggerheads in November if they haven’t spoken about this sooner.
This isn’t always possible (for instance if a couple separates just before Christmas), but the more time you give this, the better, as differences can be worked out sooner.
Having the discussions sooner rather than later also allows couples to explore different methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation, to try and help them talk and agree things, if they cannot be worked out between themselves.
If you take legal advice, take it early
Following on from the above, if an agreement cannot be reached, the courts can decide how a child spends the Festive period with their parents. Again, the sooner advice is taken on this, the better. There will be little that can be done, for example, if the first contact with a lawyer is at 4 o’clock on the last working day before the Christmas break.
Courts can hear matters urgently, but a disagreement about Christmas is unlikely to fall into that category, and there are steps that must be taken before a Court application can be commenced. The sooner advice is taken, the sooner those steps can be put in place.
Hopefully, these simple tips can mean couples working out arrangements to see their children at Christmas more smoothly.
For more help and information with this issue or a similar issue please contact Jonathan Miller here.