Christmas – it’s all about the children.
As the festive season approaches many families will be looking forward to spending quality time together and with friends. This can be a magical time for both children and adults. Watching the excitement on the children’s faces performing at Christmas concerts, waiting eagerly for that much anticipated visit from Santa on Christmas Eve and watching them open their presents on Christmas Day.
For separated parents however, Christmas can be a tough time if they cannot agree how to share the children’s time with each parent, especially where the parents find it difficult to communicate with each other or have conflicting ideas about how the festive period should be spent.
It is important when considering arrangements that parents try remembering that it is only fair that both of them can spend quality time with the children over the Christmas period. Remember that children have feelings too and usually want to spend time with both parents. Christmas is a memorable time for children and therefore it is important that they are allowed to make memories with both of their parents. If this does not happen this could leave the children with unhappy memories which could stay with them throughout childhood and indeed into adulthood.
Here is our guide to agreeing arrangements for the children:
Don’t leave it to the last minute to try to agree arrangements. This can lead to additional stress, frustration and tension. It is never too early to make proposals for Christmas arrangements to the other parent. Addressing this at an early stage allows both parents to consider the proposals made by the other and for negotiations to take place.
Unless there is a serious safety issue, the parents should try to discuss things either face to face or by means of text messages or emails. Any discussions about the Christmas arrangements should take place away from the children. A child focused approach should ensure that the best interests of the children are met not just the wishes of the individual parents. As the children get older it may be appropriate to take into account their changing needs and feelings.
Stick to it
If you can reach agreement about arrangements, stick to it. This provides stability for the children and clarity for the parents. Arrangements for the following year can always be considered again if some of the arrangements don’t work out as anticipated this year.
What if we can’t agree?
Unfortunately, some parents will not be able to agree arrangements between themselves and will need some assistance to help them explore all options available to them.
- Mediation - Mediation is a process where the parents can discuss and negotiate child arrangements with the assistance of a neutral third party. A mediator can assist the parties to discuss issues and can provide suggestions to try to assist the parents to reach an agreement.
- Solicitor communications - It is important to take legal advice about your rights and obligations as parents. If you cannot agree arrangements yourselves or through mediation you can ask a solicitor to write to the other parent and try to reach an agreement on your behalf.
- Court application - Parents should only apply to the court for an order setting out the arrangements for the children when absolutely necessary and when discussions and mediation have been attempted and have not been successful. If you do intend to make an application to the court for Christmas child arrangements, it needs to be sooner rather than later as it is unlikely the Court will deem such applications as urgent. The court will wish to hear from both parents as to their proposals and also from Cafcass (The Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) in relation to any safeguarding issues. The court’s decision is legally binding on both parents and may not reflect the proposals made by either parent. You will be expected to abide by it in any event.
How can we help?
If you need our help in trying to reach an agreement about child arrangements via negotiation/correspondence, mediation or court applications, please call us on 01482 323239 and ask to speak to Sarah Wasling or Alison Benson in the family team who will be happy to assist.