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08 November 2019

Christmas contact arrangements: advice for separated parents

With the school Christmas holidays just seven weeks away, everyone is turning their minds to Christmas shopping, ordering the Christmas turkey or nut roast and planning a visit to Father Christmas for the children! However, when those with children are no longer in a relationship with the other parent, they will also have to consider how the Christmas holidays will be divided and in particular, where their child will be on Christmas Day.

Most parents would want their child with them on Christmas Day, however there is no blueprint for what the appropriate division of time on Christmas Day should be. Typically the court would divide the day between the parents or alternate the festival days each year regardless of the day-to-day arrangements for the child.

Parents are always encouraged to try and reach an agreement between themselves rather than involving the court. All sorts of arrangements can be agreed as it is important that these are flexible and work for both parties and – most importantly – the child.

So, how should you try and reach an agreement with your ex?

  • Plan ahead – and stick with it
    As the saying goes, communication is key. Whilst it can be difficult for many separated couples, it can often be easier to discuss matters face to face. Whether or not this is possible, we would advise any agreement to be recorded in writing to prevent a future dispute on what was agreed. If you do not feel comfortable talking to the other parent directly you may wish to contact a solicitor to communicate with your ex-partner.
  • Think about the other parent’s point of view too – and compromise
    Listen to what the other parent is saying and genuinely consider the reasons behind their proposal. The eventual outcome is probably not going to be the ideal for either of you but, like anything in life, compromise is necessary. Try not to become entrenched in your position as this ultimately means matters end up in court and the decision is taken away from you both.
  • Focus on what is best for your child
    You really must focus upon what is best for your child.  To do this it is important to put your own wishes and feelings to one side. If one or both of you are inflexible it is likely that the matter will end up in court where the focus will be on what is in the best interest of your child. You may face criticism if you have failed to take this into account.
  • Take legal advice
    Taking independent legal advice from a specialist family solicitor will ensure that you are aware of all the options available to you. An independent third party can also help to provide an objective view on the situation. They may even come up with practical options to break a deadlock which you hadn’t originally considered.
  • Do not delay
    It is always easier to deal with Christmas arrangements in advance and, whilst a court can hear an application fairly quickly if needed, applications made at the last minute are likely to face criticism from the judge who deals with your application. You also risk the court being unable to list a hearing sufficiently quickly to resolve matters. If it is clear that you and the other parent cannot agree, then we would suggest seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

If this is something that you are struggling with and would like to discuss your position in more detail then do not hesitate to contact a member of our highly experienced family team, who will be able to assist you.

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