Christmas & Child Arrangements – Who gets the lie in?

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017

With the festive season fast approaching, most people are beginning to think about turkey, tinsel and their favourite Christmas tipple. But for those parents who are no longer together, the Christmas period can be a very fraught and emotional time.

One of the most difficult decisions for parents who have separated or are in the process of separating is deciding who the children will spend Christmas with, as naturally both parents will want to see their children on this special day. This is particularly poignant for parents who have young children and don’t want to miss out on the magic of Christmas Day.

Some parents are able to make contact arrangements quite easily between themselves. However, if this is the first Christmas the parents have been separated, or there are other logistical considerations to take into account, this decision process can become more difficult.

If you do not currently have a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) in place which dictates who the children will spend Christmas with, then in the first instance you should always try and reach an agreement with the other parent. It is important that you consider what is in the best interests of the children, not what the parents may want. 

As a first step you should consider mediation. You will sit down with the other parent and a trained mediator who will help guide you towards a mutual agreement. Both parents will have to be present and willing to cooperate in the mediation for this to be an effective remedy. Coffin Mew would be happy to recommend you to a local mediator who can help you make arrangements in a relatively quick and cost effective manner.

If an agreement is not possible or you do not have direct contact with the other parent, sometimes a letter from a solicitor can help. You can instruct a solicitor to put forward proposals on your behalf with a view to coming to an agreement. But beware; instructing a solicitor may just aggravate an already tense situation, so think carefully before following this avenue.

As a last resort you may want to consider issuing Court proceedings to obtain a CAO. Though we would always recommend that you speak with a qualified family practitioner who will be able to guide you through the Court process before issuing any proceedings. The approach that the court will often take is that it is fair that Christmas is shared by both parents on alternate years.  Year 1 with Mum, year 2 with Dad, for example.  The court will be extremely reluctant to split the day itself though so if that is your intention, or for the children to always spend Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other, then it may be in your interests to keep matters out of the court. 

Remember, always think about what is best for your child and make sure any decisions regarding Christmas are not left until the last minute.

If you would like to discuss any potential issues surrounding arrangements for children then please contact a member of the family team on 023 9238 8021.