Making Christmas work for separated families
The Christmas season is a time of fun and too many mince pies but for many people, it can also be difficult, especially if you are trying to make arrangements for your children to share time between their Mum and Dad as well as aunts, uncles, grandparents and distant cousins. This might be your first Christmas as ‘separated parents’ and you’re wondering how to manage or it could be a problem you have struggled with for years but here is our toolkit to help.
- Make a plan
Try to make the arrangements well before Christmas and remember not to leave it to close to the end of the school term. It will help your children (and the whole family) if they know when they will be with each important person. We suggest that you try to include as many details as possible to avoid any nasty surprises or opportunities for conflict.
There are no right or wrong answers about how your child spends time with their parents over Christmas. Some families opt to share Christmas Day itself whilst others alternate Christmas Day and Boxing Day between them. If Christmas Eve or New Year is more important for your family, that’s fine too and your plan should take it into account.
Don’t forget to think about school events before the end of term such as the Nativity or Christmas Party. Lots of schools invite the parents to these and it’s a good idea to sign up for the school newsletter in advance so that you know what is happening.
- Think about what your children would want to do
A child’s wishes and feelings are taken into account in Child Arrangements Order court proceedings and that is because it is frequently important that they know their voice is being heard. Sometimes it is a good idea to talk to your children about what they want but even if this is inappropriate, you need to think about the arrangements from their point of view. What are the most important things about Christmas for them and how can that be achieved without conflict around your children?
- Ask for help
Remember that you are not on your own and there are a lot of resources to help parents make arrangements for their children. Here are a few suggestions:
You might also think about talking to friends and family members who have successfully managed to sort out similar problems to find out what helped them.
- Take legal advice
If it does not prove possible to make arrangements for Christmas with the other parent directly, take legal advice as soon as possible. A family law specialist will have a wealth of experience of situations just like yours and will be able to offer suggestions for how to resolve the problems. A lawyer who is a member of Resolution will, first and foremost, aim to help you solve the problem in a way that is best for the whole family.
There may still be time for you to consider ‘alternative dispute resolution’ options such as family mediation or collaborative law. These options offer the opportunity for you and the other parent to get together and make a plan for your children in a neutral environment and with support from a professional.
If all else fails, you may need to apply for a Child Arrangements Order from the family court. The Court’s decision will be based on your child’s best interests.
The highly qualified staff at Brain Chase Coles Solicitors and Haymarket Family Mediation are here to help and advise you with the arrangements for your children to achieve a restful and enjoyable festive break for the whole family.