There is no doubt that Christmas is a magical time for children but unfortunately it can also put significant pressure on families with separated parents when arrangements for children need to be handled sensitively.
In this article we consider the issues surrounding the festive period and the way in which parents can attempt to work co-operatively, in order to create the most positive time for their children.
The most common area of contention that families may face is agreeing how a child’s time is to be divided between the parties. Parents need to enter into discussions early for a greater chance of reaching a resolution which is acceptable for everyone and particularly the children. In addition, early resolution will provide certainty and clarity for the children on how their time will be spent over their holidays.
The parents’ key focus should be to seek to minimise the negative impact this period has on the children; particularly if this is the first Christmas spent in different homes. Where possible, parents should work together to navigate through this time with as little disruption as possible and with efforts focused on the children’s enjoyment rather than being preoccupied by background disputes.
In an ideal world the parties would reach an agreement between themselves but sometimes this is not possible and external assistance is required. The support of a trusted third party, for example a neutral friend or family member can assist both sides in coming to an agreement for the benefit of the children.
Failing this, it may be necessary to seek advice from an Advocate who firstly would attempt to navigate a solution either through negotiations between the parties or by advising to instruct a professional mediator. The instructed mediator is a professional and independent person who would meet with the parties (either together or separately) in an effort to resolve the areas of dispute.
However, if discussions between the parties do not result in an agreement, it will be necessary for an application to the court to be filed. This application should be made as early as possible to ensure that the matter can be heard by the court in advance of the festive period and avoid any distress for the parties in the run up to Christmas and in addition to have some certainty of plans for the children.
Whether an agreement is reached by negotiation or through the court, it is preferable, where possible, for separated parents to put in place future arrangements for the Christmas period which can continue annually and hopefully avoid any disputes in years to come. Similarly, future planning is advisable for all significant events including for example birthdays, Easter, summer holidays and half terms going forward.
If you require any assistance regarding contact for the Christmas period and beyond, please contact Dawn, Rose or Jessica from our Relationship Dispute team who will be able to provide you with their advice.
The information and/or opinions contained in this article is necessarily brief and general in nature and does not constitute legal or taxation advice. Appropriate legal or other professional advice should be sought for any specific matter. Any reliance on such information and/or opinions is therefore solely at the user’s own risk and DQ Advocates Limited (and its associates and subsidiaries) is not responsible for, and does not accept any responsibility or liability in connection with any action taken or reliance placed upon such content.