Agreeing what the arrangements for children will be over the Christmas period can be an extremely fraught issue for separated parents. As the weather outside gets colder, relations between separated parents can get ever more heated as they battle out who the children will spend Christmas with. It is obviously a very special family time, especially for those with young children who want to watch their children opening their presents and enjoying family celebrations and traditions. Typical flashpoints can be which home the children will wake up in on Christmas Day, who they will be with for Christmas Day lunch, getting to see extended family members on both sides of the family, spending time with half-siblings and attendance at special Christmas events like carol services.

There really isn’t a one size fits all solution to this problem and different solutions can be appropriate, which can be dependant on various factors such as the wishes of the children and practicalities of how far apart the parents live. Possibilities can be parents alternating having Christmas from year to year; splitting the days so one parent has Christmas Eve and half of Christmas Day whilst the other has the remainder of Christmas Day and Boxing Day; sharing the Christmas school holidays equally; one parent having Christmas and the other New Year; or following the usual contact arrangements in place regardless of how Christmas falls.

If parents can agree on what the schedule will be that is hopefully going to be an arrangement that will work and which the children will be comfortable with. Unfortunately, for lots of reasons that is not always possible and for some parents going to court is the only way to resolve the issue. However, it can be difficult to predict the outcome of such litigation because just as there is not a standard solution to Christmas contact disputes, different judges and magistrates will have sometimes quite diverse views on how these should be resolved.

So what advice would I give as a family lawyer? Try to agree on the arrangements where possible, think about what is going to be best for the children and be prepared to negotiate if necessary.  Plan ahead where you can. It can be helpful when you separate and agree on the overall arrangements if you give consideration to Christmas. Frequently although parents will agree who the children will reside with and what contact they will have with the other parent, and even what the summer holiday arrangements will be, no plans are made for Christmas. It’s easy to understand why – who wants to think of Christmas in the middle of the summer? However, leaving the arrangements until just before Christmas often makes things even more heated and less capable of resolution with added uncertainty all round. The lead up to Christmas can be stressful at the best of times without having what can be a very emotional tug of war over the children. If you plan ahead but can’t agree on matters and do need to go to court this will give you time to prepare your case properly in order to try and get the best outcome.

If you have any issues in relation to making arrangements for children following separation, whether at Christmas or other times, speak to one of the family team at Gorvins.

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