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Handling Child Arrangements at Christmas

View profile for Anna Robinson
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With the turmoil of the past few years still fresh in people's minds, it's natural for most people to be looking forward to that time of year when families can come together and relax - Christmas.

However, for many, the festive period is far from relaxing as they have to deal with the sensitive issue of arrangements for children when multiple families are involved due to separation or divorce.

With divorce rates on the rise, more and more families are finding themselves in the tricky situation of splitting time between multiple parents, grandparents, and children, which can be a challenging issue to manage.

With working patterns being disrupted due to the pandemic, it might be a completely different set of circumstances this year. It could be that the typical arrangements that have been relied on for years simply won't work as one or more parents might have a radically different office timetable to last year.

This can, obviously, cause friction, so it's essential to begin early and discuss everything upfront, involving the children where possible.

Emotions are bound to run high at this time of year, and disputes are bound to happen; even where relationships between ex-partners are generally cordial, it is, therefore, best to get things sorted out quickly.

How to handle child arrangements this Christmas

Even if everyone in the extended family agrees that the children should be put first when making difficult decisions, there may be back-tracking and lack of accord when it comes to the date. It's therefore essential to ensure that everyone is willing to compromise to some degree.

No one rule applies to these kinds of arrangements. All families are different. All contact arrangements are designed for a particular, unique situation, so Christmas arrangements must also be handled in a way that suits your family.

Holiday schedules, together with parenting schedules, need to be considered by all parties. The festive season will likely mean these schedules are disrupted by celebrations, family visitors, and other factors, so try to ensure everyone understands everyone else's situation.

If you can't reach an agreement, it might be necessary to consider taking legal advice and go to court if necessary. Remember, though, any court will expect you to have tried to resolve any disagreements by yourself or by using a mediation service before resorting to legal means. 

Always consider the children's interests first, especially any minors. For example, will they want to wake up in their new family home or their previous home where "Santa" used to visit? It might sound trivial, but young children are the most affected by separation, and normality is what they strive for. Christmas is a special time for them, and they should be the priority.

Travel should also be considered. If there is a considerable distance between homes, then the travel time will need to be considered and how long the child will be spending at each other's house.

It's no good for a child's happiness if they spend all of their Christmas travelling between parents.

And of course, remember, situations change.

A child that is now living with a step-brother or sister may now want to stay with them. While not burdening them with decisions on where they would prefer to stay, you should consider their wishes. If their relationship with other children in the family has grown, they might want to spend these special times with them and share their family traditions.

Being sensitive to their wishes means striking a delicate balance with the emotions and desires of parents, so tread carefully and consider mediation if you think it necessary.

We simply can't agree; what should we do?

While we would always encourage people to try to resolve their problems themselves, there will be times when agreement cannot be reached, and you might need legal advice.

If this is the case, we recommend you talk to one of our family law specialists, who can help you navigate the procedures involved in dispute resolution.

Our family team has years of experience and always puts children first, helping you do what's right for them and ensure their voices are heard.

To ensure this festive period is as stress-free as possible, give us a call on 0800 118 1500 today.