Christmas. A time when we are told kids are jingle belling and everyone telling you to be of good cheer. However, for many years the courts have been flooded with applications from separated parents who cannot agree how to divide the holiday period between mum and dad.
Ensuring that the children are informed about where they will be spending Christmas is important as it avoids them becoming distressed and witnessing any upsetting adult behaviour that could remain with them into adulthood. Some families have Child Arrangements Orders (formally known as residence or contact orders) that direct parents as to how the festive season is to be split between them. It’s important that these arrangements are followed as there are penalties for those who fail to respect them.
For those without formal arrangements, planning is important as this gives both parents the opportunity to discuss in writing (via messenger, text or email) how much time they would like to spend with their children over Christmas and the New Year. This is often referred to by people as “access” or “contact” and will be influenced by family traditions and work commitments.
Examples of arrangements can include the period between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day being divided between parents, with one party spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the family children, the other spending the afternoon of Christmas Day and Boxing day. In an ideal world, the arrangements would alternate each year, Santa being updated with the delivery address accordingly.
A formidable challenge is when one parent lives outside of the UK. Consideration needs to be given here as to whether the child can travel as an unaccompanied minor to see mum or dad.
If parents are unable to agree arrangements as communication has broken down, a letter submitting proposals for contact over Christmas can be sent via a solicitor. Solicitors, in the Family Department at Jacksons Law Firm, are members of Resolution which means any correspondence will be drafted in a way to reduce conflict, avoiding inflammatory language and giving the other parent the chance to respond.
Mediation is also a useful method to agree contact and is now compulsory before any application is made to the court. This can help guide both parties to a workable agreement through negotiation and is a cost-effective option. It also means that more of the family’s resources can be placed in the children’s Christmas Stockings as opposed to with the courts.
No parent wants their child to remember a Christmas filled with anger and disagreements. It’s therefore important to start making plans for Christmas now if you haven’t done so already to ensure everyone enjoys a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
If you would like to discuss how to agree shared arrangements over Christmas, please contact Heather Snowdon on E: firstname.lastname@example.org or Emma Canham on E: email@example.com. Alternatively call Heather on 01642 356 500 or Emma on 0191 232 2574.