“All I want this Christmas is for Mummy and Daddy to be happy and to allow me to spend time with both of them over the Christmas period”
As Christmas is on the horizon, it’s time to think of shopping, parties and family time. However, this is also a challenging time for many separated parents who would need to work out the arrangements in respect of their children to cover the holiday period without the intervention of family solicitors or indeed the courts.
Often the Christmas holiday is the most belligerent holiday when it comes to sorting out where the children will stay. In an ideal world, children will spend time with both parents on Christmas day; however, this may simply not be possible for a number of reasons. It is essential to ensure that if there is disagreement between parents as to the arrangements in respect of the Christmas holidays those steps are taken early to ensure that there is sufficient time to find a solution that would be in the children’s best interests. The last thing parents would want is to have an unhappy child because they have been unable to sort out the arrangements without an argument.
The most advised solution is to alternate Christmas days and treating Christmas Eve or Boxing Day as a “second” Christmas day with the other parent. Consequently, it is a good idea for parents to give this some thought now and to put forward proposals for the arrangements in relation to their children over the festive period.
Here are some tips on how best to prepare for the issues which may arise at Christmas:-
- Early planning – consider all the practicalities and make plans ahead so that the children are aware of the arrangements. Communicate those plans with the other parent and agree on dates, venues and handover times. Try to be flexible - consider possibilities of delay due to public transport. Consider if the children should spend time with their extended family (grandparents, uncles, cousins and so on) during this time.
- School plays – Who should be attending? Who has the day to day contact with the school? Is it possible for both parents to attend? Should any of the grandparents be allowed to attend?
- Communication – Where should the children be? Obtain the other parent’s consent. If abroad, share the details of flights, hotel and telephone number with the other parent.
- Christmas presents – Try to discuss with the other parent the presents to buy for the children; there is nothing worse than getting them the same presents for the children. If both parents are on good terms then consider giving joint presents to the children to avoid competition.
- Telephone - Parents often disagree about when and how telephone contact should take place over the Christmas period. Consider if Face time, Skype or WhatsApp would help on Christmas day.
- Quality time – Parents should try and make the most of their time with the children, have fun and create happy new memories and traditions for the future.
In the event that the difference between parents relates to more than just one specific issue then one might want to explore the possibility of mediation before considering an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order under the Children Act 1989 is required but always bear in mind that each case depends on its own particular circumstances and parents should always put their differences aside and consider what is in the best interests of their children.
Wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Christmas!
By Vijaya Sumputh