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Keeping in contact at Christmas

View profile for Anna Robinson
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It’s that time of year when the shops start filling with all of the must-have items, supermarkets tell you to get in quick and order the turkey and trimmings, and there's still 7 weeks to go!

The sad thing is, at this time of year family solicitors start to get asked to help people with the dreaded over the festive period.

We are coming into what can be a particularly difficult time for separated parents.  As a Family Solicitor at Talbots Law, I'd like to share some tips on making contact arrangements, at what can be a fractious and stressful time without having to deal with who is going where on the big day itself.

Unless Christmas contact has been previously arranged, either by informal agreement, with the assistance of a Solicitor via correspondence, or by a Court Order, then the parties will need to try and agree the arrangements themselves.

  1. Approach the subject of Christmas contact with your ex-partner as early as possible. Having something arranged well in advance of the festive period will ensure that everyone knows where they stand, and can make plans for the time that they are going to be caring for the children.
  2. Where possible (and appropriate) ask the children for their views, but make it clear that there may have to be some compromise from everyone (including the Parents). For example, it might not be possible or indeed practical for the child/children to be with both parents on Christmas Day. It is vitally important that your children should not be witness or party to heated discussions or arguments.
  3. Is sharing Christmas Day going to be appropriate? For example, for younger children especially it would be unfair to expect them to to leave half-way through playing with their presents to be with the other parent. Consider whether it may be more appropriate for one parent to have the children with them on Christmas Day, and the other parent to have them with them on Boxing Day. It may sound straightforward, but more often than not, the premise that the children can essentially enjoy Christmas twice, and are not being rushed away from one parent’s home to the other can be lost in what the parents want in terms of ‘time’ with the children.
  4. Consider switching arrangements on a yearly rotation, so that the parent who has the children on Christmas Day this year, will have them on Boxing Day next year, and vice versa. What is appropriate however, or reasonable, will of course vary from case to case, family to family, and will depend entirely upon the individual circumstances.
  5. Does any previously organised and routine contact need to be modified in the run up to Christmas? Children will often have parties, or be invited to visit relatives who live some distance away and who they may not see regularly for example.
  6. Avoid misunderstandings. It may be a worthwhile exercise to exchange texts or e-mails to confirm what has been agreed. There will always need to be an element of compromise which, when you are going through the sad breakdown of a relationship, can of course be a very difficult task.
  7. You will need to have ‘what ifs’ covered. For example, what if the weather is bad, making travel difficult or impossible. You and the other parent should always know how to communicate emergency situations to the other, or a close relative if this is more appropriate in the circumstances.
  8. The most important thing to remember is that arrangements should always be in the children’s best interests. This is always going to be the paramount concern for the Court when considering any applications for the arrangements for a child.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding contact over the Festive period, then contact us at Talbots Law for specialist advice as soon as possible. The Courts are currently inundated with cases and the longer things are left to be resolved formally, if needed, the higher the risk that matters will not be considered by the Court before the Festive season is upon us. The sooner that the arrangements are agreed between you, the sooner you will be able to relax and enjoy your plans and activities on the build-up to Christmas.

For more information or assistance with contact arrangements, or any other family related issues, please contact Anna Robinson, or a member of the Family Law team or call us on 0800 118 1500.