Managing contact with children across the holiday period

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It is that time of year again when many parents who have separated, turn to us for legal advice about their rights surrounding contact with children over the Christmas period.

Christmas can understandably be a very difficult time for both parents when they have separated, especially if they have young children. It can be incredibly difficult to face the thought of not being there to see your child’s/children’s faces on Christmas morning, or having Christmas dinner without your child/children present. Even for those who are able to amicably and easily agree arrangements for the children throughout the rest of the year, Christmas can be a testing time to reach an agreement.

Where does the law stand?

If a Court were to determine the issue about Christmas contact with children there is no straightforward answer; each case has to be determined on its individual facts, with the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration. In the majority of cases however, where there are no concerns about the ability of either parent to safeguard the child, and where both parents have a loving relationship and regular contact with the child, the Court will, in most cases, take the view that there should be equality for each parent when considering the issue of Christmas contact. This is considered to be in the best interests of the child and it is the needs of the child that the Court are concerned with, and not the needs of the parents.

Could you come to an agreement together?

If at all possible, it is always best to agree the arrangements between you, rather than allow a Court to decide matters for you. A common arrangement is for the child to alternate staying with a parent on Christmas Eve each year. The parent who does not have the child on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning, may collect the child halfway through the day and enjoy the rest of the day and Christmas night with the child. Others may alternate, so that one parent has the child on their birthday morning, and the other on Christmas morning. Some parents simply make another day spent with the child around the Christmas period extra special, for example Boxing Day, where some parents may treat this as Christmas Day, providing presents and a special dinner.

What happens if you can’t agree a plan?

There are of course situations where people are unable to agree the arrangements and may feel that the other parent is being unreasonable. In these situations we can provide advice, but if the Christmas period is approaching, whilst we can attempt to negotiate on your behalf, it is worth noting that it is unlikely to be possible to make an urgent application to the Court in sufficient time to determine the issue (unless there are exceptional circumstances). You would firstly have to attend mediation and then await a Court date. If therefore you do experience difficulties arranging Christmas contact this year and anticipate problems in the future, we would suggest that you get in touch with us well in advance, so that matters can be resolved for the future.

Do you need advice from our experienced and specialised family law team?  Call us during opening hours on 01642 233980 or contact us here.

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