Christmas can be a difficult time of year for families with divorced or separated parents. For some families, there may be an option to co-parent, meaning that everyone can spend Christmas Day together. However, that won’t be an option for many separated families. This may be due to a non-amicable spilt, new relationships or extended family who find it difficult to put their differences aside.
Unless Christmas contact arrangements have already been made, either by agreement of the parties or by court order, then the parents will need to try to make these arrangements between themselves. It is important to consider contact arrangements over the Christmas period as early as possible, as this will ensure that everyone knows where they stand and can make plans for the big day.
What to Consider When Making Contact Arrangements
Firstly, if possible, ask the children for their views and what they would like. However, you should make it clear that they may have to compromise as it may not be possible to spend time with both parents on Christmas Day. Following this, you should discuss the contract arrangements with your ex-partner. If you suspect that it may turn into a heated discussion, then do all you can to ensure there are no arguments in front of the children.
You should also consider whether is it appropriate to share contact on Christmas Day. It may be more suitable for one parent to have the children on Christmas Day and the other to have them on Boxing Day. This will allow them to enjoy their time with each parent, rather than rushing away halfway through the day. This could be switched the following year. However, it is important to consider what is best for your family as this will depend on individual circumstances.
Can’t Come to Agreement?
Unfortunately, there may be occasions when you can’t reach an agreement with your ex-partner. If this is the case, it may be necessary to seek mediation from an external party, use a solicitor to negotiate or ask the court to decide.
Mediation can help resolve disagreements in relation to contact arrangements with the guidance of a trained professional. It is important to note that it is not legal advice or counselling. Rather, it is a service that will provide you with the opportunity to discuss any issues, with the mediator ensuring that both parties can have their say. However, mediation is not usually suitable for those who have experienced domestic violence, emotional or financial abuse.
Using a Solicitor to Negotiate
If using a mediator or talking to the other parent was unsuccessful, you may need to seek help from a solicitor. Depending on the circumstances, it may be more appropriate to use a solicitor such as if you have experienced domestic violence or feel as though you have been intimidated into making an arrangement. However, legal aid is only available in limited cases and so, you will need to consider the costs involved.
Asking the Court to Decide
Finally, if you are still unable to reach an agreement, you should consider applying to the court. This option can be lengthy, expensive and may not result in the desired outcome. The court will encourage you to come to an agreement however, if this is not possible, they may issue child arrangements that are in the best interest of your child.
Regardless of which option you choose, it is important to remember that the best interests of the children should be at the forefront of your mind. At H McPartland & Sons, it is our priority to ensure the welfare of any child involved and we will provide expert advice on making child contact arrangements at any time of the year. Contact us today and talk to one of our family law experts to ensure your child arrangements are handled both professionally and sensitively.