Making Christmas contact arrangements for your child can be a difficult task when you’re a separated parent. Missing out on a special day and sharing your child’s time with your previous partner is no easy feat, but compromise is key. In this blog, we explore ways in which you can navigate Christmas contact arrangements in a stress-free and amicable manner.
Understanding Your Rights
Neither parent has any immediate or absolute right to spend the holidays, or any other time, with their child and if consulted, the court can and will make decisions that serve the child’s best interests if amicable arrangements can not be made. The court will consider several things, including the child’s feelings and preferences, their emotional and physical needs, any harm that may come to the child, their background and age (as well as any other relevant characteristic), and the parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child.
Spending Christmas abroad is also becoming a more common occurrence, but if you wish to take your child overseas during the festive period, you need the written consent of anyone with parental responsibility, unless there is a child arrangements order in place. If there is a child arrangements order in place that states the child will live with one parent, that parent can take the child out of the country for up to 28 days.
Some common factors can cause problems when making Christmas contact arrangements. Some examples include; living apart and travel arrangements, work commitments and weather conditions (especially for snow-prone areas). Our advice to tackle these issues, as well as any other points of tension, is outlined below.
Start discussing Christmas arrangements well in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Early discussions provide time to speak with family members, consider various plans, arrange time off work, organise travel and seek legal advice or mediation if needed.
Transparent and calm communication is key, for both you and your child. Clearly express your preferences and reasons behind them, whether it’s splitting the day in half, coming together in an amicable fashion or spending Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other. Precise details on dates and timings help prevent misunderstandings and you have a chance to air any grievances or preferences.
Listen and Compromise
Be open to understanding the other parent’s perspective. Keep emotions in check and avoid emotive language to strengthen communication. Your child is the priority, so don’t starve them of contact with their immediate family during a special occasion. If possible, ask your child what they would like to do and navigate your Christmas plans around their wishes without making them feel as though they need to choose between their parents.
Consideration for the Other Parent
Honestly evaluate your expectations of the other parent and reflect on whether you would find the suggested arrangements acceptable if roles were reversed. Recognise the importance of your child’s relationship with both parents and ensure their happiness is at the forefront of the decision-making.
Once an agreement has been reached between you and your former partner, document it in writing through an email or letter. This helps to prevent misunderstandings and serves as a reference point for both parties in the future.
Child Arrangement Orders
In some cases, there may already be a child arrangement order in place. If so, you’ll generally need to follow the terms set out within the order unless you can both agree on a different arrangement. If your child arrangement order does not refer to Christmas, then you are free to negotiate and come to a mutual agreement.
Some common arrangements for Christmas contact arrangements include:
- Spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, then going to the other parent for the rest of the day and night
- Spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with one parent and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with the other parent
- Alternating the arrangements year-on-year so that both parents have the chance to spend Christmas Day with their child, even if it is only every other year
- If the relationship between parents is friendly and amicable, and the children are quite young, spend some of Christmas Day together so the child benefits from proper family time
Failed Negotiations and Family Court
Should you fail to agree on Christmas arrangements, we would advise you to speak to a family law solicitor. They will be able to discuss the situation with you in more depth and make suggestions to break the deadlock. They can also enter into negotiations on your behalf with your child’s other parent or their lawyer, and if an agreement cannot be reached, they will be able to refer you to mediation.
A mediator will work with both of you to explore the different options available. If this avenue fails and you’re unable to find a solution, your solicitor can apply to the court on your behalf and request an order to finalise a decision.
Get in touch
At CWC Solicitors, we understand that making Christmas contact arrangements can be a challenge. If you’re struggling to come to an agreement with your former partner and need some advice or legal representation, contact our experts.