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How can I get to see my children at Christmas?

Nick Hodson

03.12.2018

In a memorable Christmas episode of ‘The Vicar of Dibley’, Dawn French spends Christmas Day eating multiple huge Christmas dinners. She does so in order to not upset her parishioners who want their vicar to spend the special day with them.

 In a similar way, the children of separated parents often spend their time travelling between homes – each parent making the day as happy as possible. Many young people will enjoy ‘double’ celebrations and receive extra presents.

But what happens if you can’t agree contact at Christmas, and what are your options? Many family lawyers start getting requests for advice on the issue shortly after the October half term ends. The end of year break is the next major school holiday and parents who don’t live with their children are keen to sort out arrangements.

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Here are our five top tips for a happy family Christmas: 

  • Communication with your ex-partner: talking through the arrangements is really the best starting point. The vast majority of separated couples are able to sort Christmas out and it is much better having a plan that you both agree with rather than one that might be imposed by a court
  • Compromise : inevitably there will need to be some give and take from both sides if the children are going to have the best of both parents. Whatever you agree for this year, can you agree to alternate the arrangements for the next year? Sometimes, the court will reach a decision whereby the children spend Christmas morning with the parent they live with and spend the rest of the day and overnight with the other parent. Is that something that could work for you and your children?
  • Put yourselves in your children’s shoes: if there is a long distance between the two homes, do the children really want to spend several hours in the car? If you think the children are old enough to have a view, what would they want?
  • If you cannot agree the arrangements, consider going to mediation where an independent person may be able to help you reach a sensible compromise
  • If mediation is not achievable, consider seeking the advice of a family lawyer. It might be that, with their help, an agreement can be reached.

Ultimately, if there is no option, you can apply to the court for a child arrangements order. December is a very busy month for the courts so any application must not be left too late. At the court hearing, the judge or magistrates will try and broker an agreement that meets the needs of the children. Their welfare will be the court’s paramount consideration.  So, if you are experiencing difficulties agreeing the arrangements for your children over Christmas, please speak to an experienced family law solicitor who will help you in trying to achieve the best possible outcome.  

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