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Christmas child contact can be better than double sprouts: ten tips for a peaceful Christmas

Posted: 15/11/2019

One of the toughest times for the children of separated parents is Christmas. Family law solicitors like us often see disputes over which parent is going to have the children over the festive season. Both mum and dad may want to have their kids with them at such a magical time of year. How can any dispute be resolved? Here are a few tips:

  • Think double Christmas rather than feeling that one parent is missing out on the festivities of their children. Many parents manage to agree a split of time over the holiday period with, perhaps, the kids staying at mum’s to open their presents on Christmas morning before being collected by dad to celebrate with him later in the day.
  • Plan ahead. The courts see a good number of applications for child arrangements in the run up to Christmas. These take weeks if not months to deal with so if you know that your ex is blocking any contact over the season, get independent legal advice promptly.
  • Try to agree arrangements out of court. Mediation can be an excellent forum for resolving disputes about whom the children might be staying with at Christmas. If that doesn’t work, arbitration is a flexible and effective alternative to the court process.
  • Focus on the children. The law says that the welfare of children is paramount so parents must always have in mind what is in their child’s best interests.  
  • Agreement to alternate. Child arrangements which you and your ex agree upon are more likely to be palatable than those imposed by the court which cannot please both parties normally. Don’t just think about this Christmas. Rather consider alternating Christmas contact so, say, you get the first half of Christmas this year and the second half next year. Remember that Christmastide is longer than Christmas Day. Start planning next year’s Christmas now.
  • Involve extended family. Christmas should be a big family celebration so make sure that your children get to see grandparents, aunts and uncles etc on both sides of the family.
  • Don’t out-present your ex. Some parents, through guilt, try and compete with their ex over presents. Don’t. When the batteries run out or the wheels fall off, it will have proved a futile exercise.
  • Talk to the children. The statutory welfare checklist includes reference to the wishes and feelings of the children in light of their age and understanding. Unless they are very little, your kids may have something to say about what happens with contact over Christmas. Listen to them and try to do what is best for them with regard to their wishes.
  • Support your ex‘s arrangements. Once things are agreed, support the contact arrangements the children are to have with your ex. Take an interest and maybe even give them a present to take to her/him.
  • Take away. Let your children take their presents with them to play with at your ex‘s home. Don’t insist that they can only play with them at your home.

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