Few occasions can bring out the potential for conflict between separated couples more than Christmas.
Each parent will naturally want to spend as much time as possible with their children but as there is only one Christmas Day, that can prove difficult.
Of course, most people find amicable solutions with arrangements that are usually quite simple and basic common sense. This could be the children spending Christmas morning with mum and the afternoon with dad, or Christmas Day with dad and Boxing Day with mum.
Some families find it easier to alternate annually, with the children spending Christmas with one parent one year and with the other the next. Alternating between Christmas and the New Year is another option.
There are any number of possibilities. What matters is the arrangements are fair to both parents and, even more importantly, in the best interests of the children.
But what do you do if you can’t reach an amicable agreement?
The best thing is to consult your solicitor. He or she will be able to offer you advice that may help solve any disagreements quite quickly. For example, it may help you to know whether you are being reasonable in your demands, or whether your ex-partner is asking for too much. Perhaps you both need to rein back your expectations.
Compromise is often needed on both sides.
Advice from a family lawyer who will have dealt with many similar cases can help you get things in perspective. You can then reassess your position and go back to your ex with some new ideas. Or if you find it difficult to negotiate, your solicitor can do that for you.
Receiving a letter from a solicitor can often concentrate the mind of a partner who until that point has been stubborn and unreasonable.
If that still doesn’t result in an agreement, there other ways or reaching a resolution such as mediation.
If your ex-partner still holds out, the next step may be to go to court to seek a Child Arrangements Order (CAO). This is very much a last resort, but it will provide an answer, although there is no guarantee it will be the answer you want.
CAOs are part of the divorce process and generally cover the major issues such as where your children should live and how much contact each parent should have with them. However, they can also cover arrangements for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, and they can be surprisingly detailed and sensitive to a child’s requirements.
For example, it would not be unusual for the court to consider whether the children still believe in Santa Claus and decide that if they do, they should spend Christmas morning in their usual home, because that is where they would expect Santa to deliver their presents.
This may seem hard on the other parent but when it comes to making decisions, the courts will always put the needs of the children before the wishes of the parents.
For this reason, they may not allow an arrangement that involves the children having to spend several hours travelling between parents on Christmas Day, although a short journey may be acceptable.
This level of fine detail will extend to issues such as extended families, where the children have Christmas lunch or the advantages of them spending time with grandparents. Anything that may impact on the children’s wellbeing and happiness will be considered.
It’s important to try to come to an amicable arrangement as far in advance of Christmas as possible. This reduces the stress that may come with a deadline. It also leaves you time to take court action if necessary.
If you leave it too late, the courts may not have time to deal with your case. This could lead to further conflict with your ex-partner, which may filter down to your children and spoil the occasion for them. The last thing they want at what is supposed to be a magical time, is for mum and dad to still be arguing on Christmas Day.
If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 0208 004 0065, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.