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How should I manage Christmas arrangements for my children when separated?

Christmas is a special and magical time of the year, especially for children. Most people wish to spend the festive period with family and friends, however it can be a difficult time for separated parents and their children if arrangements cannot be agreed. The same can be said for any special time of the year, whenever this may be for your family. How can you make it easier for you and your children?

Christmas should be a wonderful time for children and so one of the key points is to focus upon at the outset is the welfare of your child. It is vitally important that you consider the needs and wishes of your child, and the importance of a child being able to spend time, where safe, with both parents and the importance of extended family. Any arrangements should be considered on the basis of your child’s needs, factoring in their age and any specific requirements.

You should always remember that any disputes between their parents will be difficult for your child to deal with, arrangements will be easier to manage and preferable for your child if you can work as a team.

It is important to communicate respectfully with the other parent, if at all possible, although we recognise how difficult that can sometimes be. Whilst a compromise might not be ideal, having an agreement rather than a dispute where at all possible is in the best interests of your child.  Compromise is key. Even though you might want to spend as much time as possible with your children over the holiday period remember that your ex-partner is likely to want to do the same. Try to view things from the point of view of the children, rather than thinking about what you want. Share the time that you have with your children as amicably as possible and encourage your children to enjoy their time with their other parent.  If you have to compromise more than you would like this year, can the arrangements be reversed next year?

It is helpful if you can make a plan in advance. Christmas is a busy period for everyone. Both parents will want to make plans and spend time with wider family, so it is important that arrangements are confirmed in order to allow each parent to organise activities, days out, trips etc. This is especially true if one or both parties will have a long journey in order to facilitate handovers.  It is worth thinking about Christmas and holiday as early as possible when considering future co-parenting arrangements.

Resolution provides a very helpful booklet, which can be found [here], in relation to co-parenting, which includes many helpful tips to assist with reaching an agreement.

What can I do if I cannot agree?

If you are not able to agree the arrangements, you should speak with a solicitor regarding the next steps. Your solicitor may be able to discuss the arrangements with your ex-partner or their solicitor in order to reach an agreement, which can then be written up as a formal document.

If this is unsuccessful, you could consider mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process in which you can discuss and negotiate future arrangements for your child with the help of a neutral third party. The mediator will not give legal advice or tell you what to do, they will simply try to improve your communication and assist you to reach your own agreement.

In cases where mediation and solicitor negotiations are unsuccessful, you can consider whether it is necessary to apply to the court. The court will want to see that you have attempted to resolve disagreements between yourselves prior to taking the matter to court. It should be noted that, if there are no safeguarding concerns, the court will usually start from the position that it will be in the child’s best interests to see both of their parents at Christmas. Any order made will attempt to be fair between both parents, so it is not likely that the court would make an order for the child to spend the whole festive period with one parent.

If you are struggling with organising Christmas arrangements with your ex-partner, please contact Rayden Solicitors to discuss parental disputes matters further with a specialist family solicitor.

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