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Child Arrangements over Christmas

The joys of Christmas can often be set aside by disputes between separated parents

With Christmas around the corner, it is time to start planning how the festive period will be spent. However, for separated parents the festive season can often bring with it disputes over how a child’s time should be divided between two households and who they should spend Christmas with. It is essential to try and make this a happy and child focused time of year, and for parents to be able to reach an agreement which puts the child first.

The starting point with child arrangements

Whilst this can be a difficult time of the year for parents who may be contemplating having to spend Christmas day without their child, especially so if it is the first time for a separated family who have traditionally spent Christmas together in previous years, it is important to put the needs and best interests of the child first. Parents should attempt to reach an agreement by focusing on:

  • Compromise
    It is often the case that the parent with whom the child spends Christmas day with alternates on a yearly basis. Therefore, an element of compromise and sharing is needed by both parties. It may be the case that the child spends Boxing Day or New Years with the other parent and continue the celebrations in order to reach a fair agreement.
  • Effective Communication
    Both parents should be able to communicate effectively and plan around the child in order to reach an agreement, taking into consideration the wishes and feelings of the child.

When parents cannot reach an agreement

Parents can attend Mediation, this can be an effective way of reaching a decision without the need for back and forth solicitor’s correspondence or having to go to Court. Family mediation consists of a series of discussions where a trained mediator will help to reach an agreement between both parties. The mediator facilitates the meetings but does not take sides or make decisions. Their role is to encourage dialogue and help make arrangements.

If parents cannot come to an agreement then they should consider instructing solicitors. If communication between the parties themselves has broken down, solicitor’s negotiations may be a more effective way of reaching an agreement which puts the child first.

If you simply cannot agree arrangements for Christmas, then either parent can make an application to Court and arrangements will be decided for you. However, it is much preferred by the Court for families to work out arrangements between themselves.

Existing Child Arrangements Orders

For those who have already been through the formal procedure and have a Child Arrangements Order in place, it is likely that the division of holidays will have been accounted for. In most cases, the Court place an emphasis on sharing holidays providing the parents can commit to the same and it is quite usual for the child to spend Christmas Day with each parent on alternate years.

Key points to remember when planning for Christmas

  1. The child’s welfare, best interests and happiness should be the primary consideration when making any arrangement.
  2. Parents should try and reach an agreement through effective communication and being able to compromise.
  3. Plan ahead – do not leave these decision until the last minute. It is important to remain child focused and make this a happy time of year for the child.
  4. Every family is different, what may work for one does not work for all.

Our specialist Family Mediators have many years’ experience in helping their clients to reach a mutual agreement. If you require specialist advice, please call us on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back online at your convenience.