Tis the season of goodwill
  • 1st Dec 2021
  • Article written by Emma Palmer
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For most people Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. Mince pies, Christmas pudding, presents and fun times with friends and family alike!


However, for separated families, Christmas can be an extra challenge and ensuring that children can spend time with both their parents over the festive season is often difficult to achieve.  Normal contact times go out of the window as Christmas and the days around it can fall on any day of the week.  Inevitably, separated couples have to manage this and it can lead to disagreement particularly at this time of the year when emotions can run high!

So, we previously put together some useful tips to try and minimise conflict and help you to work together and in your child or children’s best interests and which we thought you might find helpful to look at again:


Put your child or children at the centre


It is really important, perhaps more so than at any other time, to think about what is in your child or children’s best interests. They are likely to want to see both their parents over Christmas and should not be placed in a game of tug and war. By thinking about what they want rather than what you want, it can help you to think more clearly and compromise.


Share arrangements fairly


Christmas should be a joyous occasion and so, if one parent spends Christmas Day with your child or children one year, then make sure that this is rotated the following year so that your child or children can enjoy the same arrangements with the other parent the following year.


There are many different ways to achieve this and over the years we have seen couples who alternate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the other parent but equally others who do a handover on Christmas Day so that both parents get to see the child or children on that day and to wake up with them on Christmas Day morning. Do not forget about New Year. If one parent is seeing the children over the Christmas days then the other could have them over the New Year period.


Also remember Christmas Day is just a day so, if your child or children are spending Christmas Day with the other parent, then you can allocate another “Christmas Day” and enjoy the usual festive traditions on another day with them and your extended family. Your child or children are unlikely to complain about celebrating twice especially if there are more presents to be opened!


Early planning is essential


The sooner you can sort the arrangements out for Christmas the better. We would even suggest as soon as one Christmas is over try and plan and agree next Christmas. That way if there are going to be any difficulties, there is plenty of time to discuss them and even to attend mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution.  If, as we all have in our careers as family lawyers, we get a call in late November or early December about Christmas arrangements then, unless the parents are able to agree with our help, in practice there is little time to do anything else to resolve this.


This then leads into what to do if you cannot agree and again, if you have left this to the eleventh hour, the reality is not much for that year. Starting a court application should always be a last resort and the court can hear some matters urgently but a dispute about time with your child or children at Christmas is not likely to fall into that category. Further, the current court backlogs due to Covid 19 are significant so getting into court quickly for a resolution is not likely.


In some cases, sadly, arrangements for the children do end up in court and that includes the arrangements over the holiday season. In our experience in most cases the court will make an order that parents share the festive season with their children and this is something to bear in mind before starting a court process.


If you need any further help and information with this issue or a similar issue please contact one of the family law team at Whitehead Monckton for more information.