For those of us that celebrate Christmas, it is a very special occasion, all about sharing quality time with family. However, for many separated parents, the lead up to Christmas can become more stressful with the added task of who will have contact with the children and when. Unfortunately, this can result in conflict between both parents, and worst of all, it can tarnish what should otherwise be a joyful time for the child.
Now, with the festive season fast approaching, our Family Law team offers expert advice to separated parents sorting out the arrangements with their children. It’s the one thing you don’t want leave until the last minute at Christmas!
How do parents usually split their time with children in the Christmas period?
We know one of the biggest gifts as a parent is watching your child experience the magic of Christmas, so it can be very heart-breaking to let them go to stay with their other parent. Naturally, most parents will want to spend time with their child on Christmas Day. However, every situation is different, and some parents may not wish to be – or simply cannot be – involved as much as others.
It is common for many separated parents to share time with the child over Christmas, for instance with one parent having the child on Christmas Day and the other on Boxing Day, then alternating this arrangement each year.. This is a conjoint routine that can give the child consistency that they expect each year. However, there is no perfect formula to this arrangement, and there will be different ways that work for different parents. Other parents may decide to split the time they spend with the child on Christmas day, itself.
In any case, it is ideal if both parents are able to come to an agreement between themselves that is mutual and without any conflict. While it can be difficult, it is necessary for parents to push aside their personal wishes and emotions, and focus on doing what is in the best interest of the child.
What if I already have a Child Arrangement Order?
For some parents, such as those that have already gone through Court proceedings, the child arrangements may have been predetermined through a Child Arrangement Order. This legal document will guide which days a child will spend with each parent during the festive period, also including other holidays such as the New Year. Each scenario will be different, but the Court will usually favour that time is shared fairly between both parents. In any case, the child’s wellbeing will always be the first priority.
Once a Child Arrangement Order has been put into place, it cannot be breached, otherwise there can be very serious consequences. The order can only be amended in certain circumstances, such an when both parties have reached an agreement about the new arrangements, but simply want this formalised by the Court, for their peace of mind. The time and costs implications, in addition to the added stress and emotions you will go through, should however be considered before making such a decision.
If you are in a situation where you are questioning the validity of your Child Arrangement Order, we recommend you instruct a Solicitor for reassurance and advice. We can thoroughly review your documentation and give you the best guidance about your rights.
What if we cannot come to an child arrangement at Christmas?
We understand that in some cases, one parent can feel they have the right to the child more than the other, especially when you have only recently separated. This can often lead if not add to disagreements with your ex-partner. Unfortunately, and often unintentionally, parents can entangle children in these disputes, making matters much worse when they can otherwise be settled without involving the child. It is therefore important to ensure you do not make your child decide which parent they want to be spending their Christmas with. Remember it is you that is the adult and not the child.
In situations where the parents cannot come to an agreement, we recommend that you attend mediation in the first instance. If mediation is unsuccessful or you are unable to attend, for one reason or another, you should instruct a Solicitor to attempt to negotiate with the other side or their solicitor, so matters can be resolved in a calm and amicable manner. Instead of causing further conflict, this will hopefully give you a space where you can express your concerns evenly and come to a fair agreement. It is beneficial for both parents as it can resolve any conflict before taking firm legal action, and most importantly, it keeps quarrels away from the child.
Always remember the more you are both able to compromise and reach an agreement with each other, the better it will be for all involved, especially the children.
We know that sometimes it can be very difficult to come to an agreement, especially if there are other factors involved, such as any concerns you may have about the other parent having contact with the child or extended family or geographic barriers. Our Family Law team are extremely experienced in these tricky situations, including international child law, and are able to give the best guidance.
I don’t have a Child Arrangement Order for Christmas. Can I get one?
You may have heard this before, but at Jefferies our Solicitors are true believers of issuing a Court application as a last resort. We do however understand and agree that in certain circumstances it may just be necessary to issue an application. For example if one parent is not being reasonable in their contact proposals or even responding to your proposals.
This may result in you wanting to issue a Court application, at full steam. Court can however, be a long-winded process, so it will not be guaranteed to be sorted by Christmas time, unless there is an emergency. So you may just want to park the brakes and get professional advise about what your options are for having contact with your child(ren), as by doing so you will realise that a Court order does not only deal with contact over the festive period, but instead sets out how much contact you will have with a child, and when all year round.
If you cannot come to a resolution with your partner, and mediation is also unsuccessful, we can offer you tailored advice on how to best deal with your problem. In the circumstances where you need to build up your case and file for a Child Arrangement Order, we are there to support you throughout the entire process and help you achieve the best outcome.
How Jefferies can help
The Family Law team at Jefferies are always here to offer the best advice. Whether you need help to resolve a dispute or need help to understand your rights as a parent, please get in touch with our friendly and empathetic team for advice. Call us today on 01702 332 311 or email us on email@example.com
From all of us at Jefferies, we wish you, your child and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!