Christmas is traditionally the season when families come together. Whilst it can be an especially magical time for children, it can pose difficulties regarding contact for parents who have separated or are divorced. The parent the child is based with often feels that as they have worked hard all year to look after their children, they should be rewarded by spending time with them on Christmas Day. The other parent will equally feel they have a right to spend time with their children over the festive period. Children look forward to spending time with both parents and other family members, so it makes sense to agree plans as early as possible to avoid creating unnecessary family tensions.
Communication should start early
Co-parenting is the key to a successful and stress-free Christmas. When it comes to making plans for what should be a happy family time, it’s good to try and discuss possible arrangements with your former spouse or partner well in advance, and to take into consideration the wishes and feelings of the children. Many divorced or separated families nowadays compromise and celebrate two Christmases, one with each parent, much to the delight of their children.
However, in some cases, agreeing times and dates for contact can become a battleground, fraught with argument and disagreement. If contact arrangements can’t be agreed between parents, then family mediation can be a good way of reaching a workable solution. Mediators are trained to help guide parents in dealing with problems like contact arrangements. Mediation provides a neutral environment where issues can be openly discussed, and a mutually-acceptable agreement reached.
However, if mediation doesn’t provide a workable solution, and all avenues have been explored, it may be that approaching the court is the only answer. The court’s primary concern will always be the needs and welfare of the child. The main disadvantage of going to court is that the judge could order contact arrangements that neither parent considers to be the best outcome, potentially fuelling further family argument and tension.
How we can help
If it isn’t possible to reach an agreement that suits parents and children alike, then the key is to seek legal advice as early as possible, so that you can consider all possible options and reach a solution that means everyone has an enjoyable Christmas.
If you’d like some specialist family advice, please contact a member of our Family Law team on firstname.lastname@example.org