Our partner Anthony Gold Solicitors have shared their guidance and tips on parenting arrangements over the holidays.
How early should myself and my ex-partner agree Christmas arrangements?
If there is no court order in place setting out Christmas contact arrangements, you should try to approach the subject with your ex-partner as early as possible with a view to reaching agreement as to who the children will spend Christmas Day with as well as arrangements for the surrounding period. It is important for children to understand what this special time will look like and how they will be celebrating with each parent.
Whilst it is preferable to have an agreement in place well in advance of Christmas, you should also be prepared, closer to the time, to be flexible and willing to compromise. This includes making provision for contingencies such as bad weather, traffic and illness (especially in view of the pandemic).
What is a normal arrangement for the Christmas period?
There is no universal approach when it comes to holiday arrangements and every family is different. An arrangement that works well for some may not work at all for others. It is therefore extremely important that separated parents engage in a dialogue at an early stage so that they can reach an agreement that works best for them. Some parents choose to alternate the Christmas period with the New Year period year on year, some parents opt to share the day. Much will depend on the age of your child(ren), geography and the parent’s traditions.
What happens if we cannot agree?
If you cannot agree arrangements with your ex-partner, it is possible to make an application to court. However the court backlogs are considerable (having worsened as a result of the pandemic) therefore unless there are exceptional circumstances requiring an urgent hearing, it is a risk that a first hearing will not be listed before Christmas.
Court proceedings should be a last resort and avoided if at all possible, especially as there are a number of alternative processes available to separated parents, including mediation and arbitration. It may also be possible to achieve agreement through solicitor correspondence, or with a solicitor offering advice in the background.
For recently separated parents, this may be the first Christmas where they will not be spending the whole time with their child(ren) and this can be difficult to process. As with all child arrangements, it will take time to adjust – for both the child(ren) and their parents – and for the new arrangements to settle in. Try to approach Christmas arrangements with a positive frame of mind and, importantly, be open to exploring different options to find out what works best for your family.
- Start a dialogue with your ex-partner as early as possible, so that you and your child(ren) know where you stand and so that you can plan accordingly. Having discussions about Christmas well in advance also allows ample opportunity to iron out any issues/disagreements between you.
- Try to remain positive and encouraging in front of your child(ren), especially as they may already be feeling more anxious in the build up to Christmas as they adjust to dividing their time between their parents.
- Make provision for contingencies, especially in light of Covid-19.
- Listen to your child(ren)’s views about how they would like to spend the Christmas period, especially if they are older. Try and consider the arrangements from their perspective and do not make them choose between you. Also consider how their time with each parent fits in with their school calendar, any extra-curricular commitments and time with their friends.
- Consider the wider family and opportunities for your child(ren) to spend quality time with them over the festive period (subject to Covid-19 considerations).
Anthony Gold Solicitors are offering Clapham Mums a free 20 minute consultation.