No one wishes to be feuding at Christmas time and to help support separated parents this Christmas, I have formulated a few top tips for ensuring that Christmas contact is arranged without problems and disputes.
1. Make proposals in advance
One of the biggest problems we see as Family solicitors in the weeks before Christmas is parents attempting to arrange Christmas contact way into December. It is understandable that both parents will want to spend time with their child or children at Christmas time and therefore it is imperative that proposals are made far enough in advance to allow an open dialogue and negotiations in the child’s best interests. If verbal communication between the parents is not an option they should consider other methods of communication such as text message or email proposals. In the event that the parents are unable to agree directly this also means there is enough time to make a referral to mediation or consult a solicitor to aid in this process.
2. There is no set formula for Christmas arrangements
It is whatever works best for the child but here are some practical solutions.
- Some parents split Christmas day in half e.g. parent one wakes up with the child on Christmas morning and then at a mutually agreed time the child are collected by parent two to spend the remainder of the day with them.
- Some parents may alternate Christmas day on a yearly basis. For example the child will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in year one with parents one and the following year the child will spend Christmas eve and Christmas day with parent two. Usually the parent who the children don’t spend Christmas day with perhaps spends Boxing Day or New Year with them instead. This will allow the child to enjoy a ‘second Christmas day’ with that parent and of course the routine can be alternated each year.
- It is important to keep logistics in mind. Of course most parents wish to see their child on Christmas day however, if the parents live some distance away from each other is it really fair to expect the child to spend a majority of the special day travelling in the car?
3. Be careful not to give the child mixed signals and confusion
Many separated parents agree that they should spend Christmas day together to allow the children to open their presents and enjoy Christmas lunch with both parents. Whilst this can work well in some families, where parents are amicable and there are no third parties such as new partners to consider in many cases this simply doesn’t work. Firstly there is the possibility of the child witnessing animosity between their parents - which should not happen any day of the year let alone Christmas. Secondly by seeing the parents working together and remaining amicable during Christmas day may confuse the child and provide them with false hope that mummy and daddy are going to reconcile. They may find this difficult to deal with when come Boxing day mummy and daddy are back in there separate houses with their separate lives!
In addition to contact arrangements it may be prudent to have an open dialogue about gift purchases for your child. It is important that neither parent adopts a competition mentality around special occasions. Although your child will no doubt appreciate the latest Disney princess or games console, he/she would benefit far more by seeing that his/her parents can get along amicably and facilitate good quality contact through this special time.
5. Remember that the child or children are paramount
Arrangements must be made to ensure they have an enjoyable Christmas period and spend good quality time with both parents.
There is no better time than Christmas to put your differences aside and work together for your children. After all it is the season of good will.
Our family department here at Franklins has a wealth of experience in supporting clients in dealing with children matters and contact orders. Should you require any assistance in this regard please do not hesitate to contact us on 01908 660 966 (Milton Keynes) or 01604 828 282, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential conversation on how we can help.