Child arrangements at Christmas

Here are our top tips for avoiding problems amongst families over child arrangements at Christmas.

Whilst there is already a lot to think about when it comes to Christmas, trying to agree child arrangements for the festive period can often be at the bottom of the to do list. Here are my top tips in agreeing child arrangements over Christmas.

  1. Plan early and set out the agreement in writing

It is never too early to agree arrangements for Christmas. Once agreed, it is advisable to put this in writing and make sure both parents have a copy. If there are any issues, these can be resolved well in advance of the Christmas holidays. Don’t forget to agree what is to happen over the whole holiday period for the children, including New Year and any bank holidays.

  1. Communicate

Good communication between separated parents is essential. However, communication between separated parents is often not without its difficulties. Try to use your normal way of communication with the other parent, but if this proves unsuccessful there are other ways to communicate, such as through text, email, mutual friend or in a public place. If this does not work, separated parents can communicate through Mediation. This is where a neutral third party (i.e. the mediator) aids discussion between the parents in a safe environment. Mediation can be more cost-effective than solicitor negotiation and helps parents to retain control over their decisions.

  1. Be realistic and reasonable

It is advisable to keep an open mind when discussing child arrangements with the other parent. Ultimately, the arrangement needs to be in the children’s best interests and, therefore, you may need to agree to a compromise in order to achieve this. If you are not willing to compromise, communication may breakdown and a solicitor may need to step in to try to resolve the matter.

  1. Consider your children’s views

If the children are old enough and have sufficient understanding, you can take into account their view on what they would like to happen over the festive period. However, ultimately, the arrangements need to be what is in their best interests and, therefore, may not match what they would like.

It is not advisable to ask children, no matter their age or understanding, to decide what the arrangements should be: children often like to please their parents and/or may feel upset if they feel the arrangements are not fair on the other parent.

  1. Keep it out of Court

Court proceedings should be used as a last resort in order to decide what should happen at Christmas. Regard should be had as to timing: even if proceedings are issued, there is no guarantee that they will be dealt with before Christmas. Further, Court proceedings are expensive, lengthy and can often increase animosity between the parties. Other forms of alternative dispute resolution, are recommended, such as mediation. If you feel that you have reached an impasse with the other parent, take advice from a specialist family solicitor to advise you about your options for resolving the issues.

Katherine Parker is a solicitor in the Family Department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email