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Child Arrangements during the festive period, image of a child opening christmas presents

The Christmas period is usually a time for families to get together with much of the focus on the children. However, for separated parents, it can be difficult to agree child arrangements for their children during the festive period. Understandably, neither parent wants to miss out on any special moments. Trying to negotiate those arrangements can put pressure on what may already be a strained relationship between separated parents.

Some families are able to agree arrangements for the Christmas period relatively easily or if parents already have a Child Arrangements Order in place, it is likely that arrangements have already been decided.

If not, then early preparation is key. We strongly recommend negotiating with the other parent in relation to Christmas arrangements sooner rather than later. By doing this, it gives plenty of opportunity for any disagreements to be ironed out. It also allows time to see what plans other family members have and to take the time needed to plan ahead and consider what would work for everyone involved. Parents should try to keep discussions child focused and ensure they are taking into consideration the needs and welfare of the children.


Typical arrangements for children during the festive period

There is no one right way to divide the children’s time, but if we look at what in our experience might be classed as ‘typical’ arrangements over Christmas, it is not uncommon for the normal arrangements for children to be suspended over the key days being Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The family court’s view is then generally that children should ideally spend their time equally between separated parents as it enables children to spend quality and meaningful time with each parent and their wider family. We also often see the Court making arrangements whereby Christmas is alternated each year between parents. There may then also be arrangements for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

There are, of course, other arrangements which can be agreed. It is very much dependent on each situation and the factors involved such as travel time and distance and also taking into account plans of others in your respective lives such as a new partner, step-children/half-siblings and grandparents.


If negotiations fail, do I have other options?

We would advise that you seek advice from a family law specialist. As family lawyers, we have to think practically and look at what the Court would do in our client’s specific case. We can enter into negotiations on your behalf on this basis.

Where appropriate, parties may also wish to consider using the mediation process. This involves sitting down with a neutral third party who will attempt to assist with resolving the issues in an amicable way. Having a neutral third-party mediator involved can be extremely beneficial as whilst they cannot give either parent specific legal advice, they can explain the general legal principles and may also provide food for thought to help parties see things from the other’s perspective.

If parents still cannot reach an agreement on child arrangements over the festive period. As a last resort, it would be possible to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine how much time the children should spend with each parent.  However, the nearer to the Christmas period you lodge an application, the greater the likelihood the court will not deal with the application until after the Christmas period as the run up to the Christmas period is extremely busy for the Family Court and the Court do not view Christmas arrangements to be an urgent matter that takes priority.

Should you need advice regarding child arrangements over the Christmas period, please contact Helen Davies at Visit our Family Law page for our full list of services and more information about DTM Legal

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