Child Arrangements over the Christmas holidays

For many separated or divorcing families, this Christmas period may be the first school holiday where everyone is living separately. Organising time with your family can become complicated and this can lead to tensions between parents and children alike, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

If this is the first separated Christmas it can be difficult to decide which parent will spend time with the children on Christmas Day. You could consider alternating Christmas Day so the parent who missed out this year will spend time with the children the year after. As stated below it is important to remain child focused and consider if there are any Christmas traditions that can be maintained: for example, attending a Church service or carol concert (although these may need to be attended virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions) or decorating the Christmas tree with the children.

The fundamental advice is that, wherever possible, do try to keep all arrangements for seeing the children as ‘child focused’ as possible and consider the following:

  • Try to avoid asking or expecting your children to choose. If possible, consider how they would like to spend time with you both together. Some families are still able to spend some time together, whilst others are not – there is no hard and fast rule.
  • Try to look at the positives for the children – they may now be living in two separate households, but this also means the opportunity to spend quality time with each parent.
  • If you are thinking of arranging a holiday for you and your children during this Christmas holidays, please discuss this with your ex-partner or spouse prior to booking to ensure that there are no conflicts.
  • If you are taking the children away on holiday, consider the logistics as passports may need to be handed over and children may need to stay with you the night before if you are catching an early flight.
  • Please remember that this may also be the first time that your ex-partner or spouse is agreeing to your children going abroad without them or going a longer period of time without seeing the children and they may feel anxious about this. Take this into consideration when answering any questions your ex-partner or spouse may have about the holiday and provide details about the holiday and emergency contact details. If staying at home, it may be helpful to share some activities that you will be doing with the children.
  • Consider sharing arrangements with the children via calendars/planners or (dependent on age) shared on-line calendars so as to be as clear and transparent as possible – most children will want to see that their parents are trying to get on, and this is one way of showing this and for the children to know what the plans are.
  • Show the children that you want them to have a relationship with the other parent and try to avoid negative comments of the other.
  • Try to plan ahead and stick to arrangements – the children will be the ones most affected if arrangements are changed last-minute. Whilst all have to be flexible, do consider the impacts on the children if plans need to be re-arranged.
  • Be considerate – to your children, each other but also to yourselves, you will always be the children’s parents and this is part of the process of co-parenting.
  • Longer term – consider a Parenting Plan – these can be looked at on-line or could be prepared via Solicitors
  • Keep all options open – consider legal advice, mediation, collaborative meetings. Our Family Partner, Paul Wild, is also a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer.

If you or your ex-spouse has a new partner who may be spending some or all that time with you and the children over the Christmas period, try to introduce them well in advance to both the children and the other partner to alleviate any concerns and be prepared to answer questions.

If you struggle over the  Christmas period in trying to see your children, or are simply looking for a more permanent and enforceable solution, please contact our Family Team on 0118 958 9711 or [email protected], who would be more than happy to assist you moving forward. Or take a look at our Children Act page for more information.

Further reading:

Family Law – Arbitration

Family Matters and Alternatives to Court

Will there be a change in the law for weddings?

Get in Touch

If you would like further information, Eleanor White-Andrews offers an initial one hour fixed fee meeting at a cost of £95 (inc. VAT). During these meeting we can discuss your personal circumstances, options and possible next steps.

Due to the current circumstances, meetings can occur via telephone. We are hoping that meetings at our office in Reading can occur soon. Please call the office on 0118 9589711 or email [email protected] if you would like to book a meeting.

Eleanor is a Family Law solicitor and a member of Resolution. Eleanor specialises in divorce, financial matters and private children matters.

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