No matter how amicable a family separation is, tensions can arise when deciding where the children will spend Christmas.
Even if you and your co-parent have agreed general arrangements for the children and they work well for the whole family for most of the year, emotions can become overwhelming when a parent realises they will not be celebrating Christmas with their children.
Rebecca Massam, family law expert and Collaborative lawyer at Warners Solicitors in Kent explains how such distress can be minimised when you and your co-parent embark on discussions about Christmas contact.
Ideally, both parents will agree holiday arrangements as part of the overall discussion about the children and what time they will spend with each parent throughout the year. It is a good idea to set out hopes and expectations regarding Christmas early on in the year, so that there is time to discuss the details before the festivities get underway.
If you cannot come to an amicable agreement between yourselves, one way of achieving this is through the use of mediation. This involves you and your co-parent sitting down with a trained mediator who will help you talk you through your issues in the hope that you can reach an agreement which suits you both. The mediator is totally independent so will not take sides.
If you feel like you need more legal support during the negotiations, you could opt for a collaborative process which involves each partner having their own collaborative lawyer at their side during face-to-face meetings between you both. You will still talk to each other directly in the meetings, but your conversation will be guided by your collaborative lawyers should it be required.
If it is not possible to reach an agreement in one of these ways, then either of you will be able to make an application to court. This can be more time consuming, costly and ultimately, you may face a decision being taken out of your hands and imposed upon you by a Judge, rather than being able to reach a workable compromise.
Although most parents will have the best interest of their children at heart, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine how this might look when thinking about how your traditional family Christmases might have now changed. It is important to avoid any conflict in front of the children, and whilst you need to communicate with your children and ask their opinion, do not make it seem as though they are having to choose between the two of you.
What holiday arrangements you agree to is entirely down to you and your co-parent – some couples are able to spend Christmas together as a family, most others will find alternative arrangements: splitting Christmas day around lunch time so the children see one parent for the morning and the other for the afternoon; or, agreeing to alternate so the children have Christmas with one parent one year, and then the other the next. It may be that if one parent has the children for a week over Christmas, the other parent will have them for a week over the New Year.
Once you have reached an agreement which you are both happy with, a family lawyer can help legally formalise it in writing, setting out all holiday arrangements for the foreseeable future. You can then calmly communicate what holiday arrangements have been agreed to your children, and get on with having quality time together with the children over the festive period.
Listen to this podcast for more information about arrangements for children when getting a divorce.
For further information on child custody at Christmas or advice on any other family law matter, please contact Rebecca through our website. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.