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Child Contact Arrangements at Christmas

December 6, 2022 By Gemma Nimmo Family Law

December 6, 2022  By Gemma Nimmo  Family Law

During the festive season, typically a time of joy and family gatherings, families undergoing separation or divorce may experience added stress and worry, making an already difficult time even more challenging. For separated parents working to arrange child arrangements order during this period, disagreements, particularly around Christmas plans, can surface. Balancing the desires of each parent while ensuring a positive experience for the children poses unique challenges during the holiday season. Managing Christmas contact arrangements such as scheduling, gift-giving, and the emotional well-being of children requires careful consideration and communication with the other parent. Navigating these complexities with open communication and empathy is vital, fostering an environment where both parents can contribute to creating meaningful holiday memories for their children

Finding something that works for everyone can often be difficult, so we’ve put together some key points for you to consider when trying to navigate Christmas time as a separated or divorced couple with children:

Is it practical for you and your child’s parent to spend the festive period together?

If you and your child’s other parent find yourselves in a situation where maintaining an amicable and cooperative relationship is feasible, you might want to consider spending Christmas day together as a family.

If Christmas day can unfold without any animosity between you and your child’s other parent, opting to spend the day together can contribute to creating joyful memories for the children.

This approach not only allows the children to celebrate Christmas in a united and harmonious family environment but also helps avoid potential arguments over visitation schedules.

Choosing to share Christmas day as a family, when possible, reflects a commitment to prioritizing the well-being and happiness of the children. It fosters an atmosphere of unity and cooperation during a time traditionally associated with togetherness, embodying the shared love and commitment both parents have for their children.

This collaborative approach not only minimizes potential stressors but also underscores the importance of placing the children’s happiness at the forefront of holiday celebrations.

If not, can you come to an alternative arrangement that is fair to both parties?

If you don’t think it’s possible for you to spend Christmas day with your child’s other parent without there being tension, then it’s best to avoid that situation and consider other Christmas child arrangements orders.

It can be difficult and potentially upsetting to consider a situation where you have to compromise on your time with your children at Christmas. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the children’s other parent, and indeed their family, have the right to spend time with the children too, therefore Christmas arrangements should be made to suit both parents.

As such, you will have to practically consider a split of time over the Christmas period that works for you both. For example, do you live near to one another and therefore it would be easy for you to split your Christmas day without taking up a lot of time travelling? Does one parent get Christmas morning one year, and the other parent gets Christmas morning the next? Alternating child access at Christmas time has become very common.

Or, do you live further apart and have to consider an arrangement whereby the children are dropped off with a different parent further in advance, perhaps on Christmas Eve or boxing day each year. A number of options may be considered before a final Christmas child arrangement that suits everyone can be agreed on. However, it’s important to stay open-minded and try to be appreciative of everyone’s thoughts and feelings when trying to come to an agreement.

Do the children have any opinion on how their Christmas time will be shared between both parents?

It is also worthwhile asking the children for their opinion on how they want to spend Christmas. Ultimately, all decisions must be made with the children’s best interests in mind, so it is important to ensure that they are comfortable with the proposals being suggested on their behalf. You may find that the children are able to give you some ideas that you and their other parent hadn’t even thought of yet!

However, you must make sure that in consulting the children, you aren’t putting them in a position of feeling like they have to choose between you and their other parent. Separation is a very difficult time for children, and so it is important to ensure they aren’t made to feel guilty or put under any unnecessary pressure when giving their opinion.

Try to encourage an open and honest conversation where the children feel comfortable to give you their honest thoughts. If you don’t feel like you can have a balanced and fair conversation with the children about Christmas contact, then consider whether someone else close to you (perhaps your own parent, sibling, or close friend) may be able to speak impartially to the children so that they aren’t negatively impacted.

Can you both agree to create a plan for Christmases going forward to avoid future disputes?

If you manage to reach a place where you and the children’s other parent are able to agree on this Christmas, why not consider if you can use this momentum to create a plan going forward? Having a plan in place in advance that everyone is comfortable with will help to take the stress out of future Christmases, and hopefully avoid any backtracking or disputes closer to the big day.

Remember, Christmas is just one day!

Although it can be difficult to imagine a situation where you don’t have your kids with you on Christmas day, try to remember that December 25th isn’t the only day that you can have festive fun with your children. If you are in a situation where you can’t see the children on ‘official’ Christmas day, you can still recreate all the hallmarks of the big day in your own time. You might even want to tell the children about your special agreement with Santa, who actually comes to your house on the 26th, not the 25th!

However you choose to spend the Christmas period as a separated couple, it goes a long way to try and be aware of both the children’s feelings and the other parent’s feelings, as well as your own.

Christmas can be a tough time for all involved when a separation is ongoing, but working together and compromising where appropriate can help to ensure that everyone gets to create positive memories and experience the magic of a happy family Christmas, year after year.

If you need to seek legal advice then Contact Jones Whyte, for sympathetic specialist advice on child contact issues, contact our experienced family lawyer in our Family department who can advise you on the next best steps for you and your family.

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