Have you sorted your child arrangements for Christmas?

With Christmas just around the corner,  Zoe Robinson, Children and Domestic Abuse Specialist at Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors, talks about how to manage Child Arrangements when parents are separated, to ensure that the magic of Christmas can be kept alive for everyone. Christmas should be an exciting time with decorations sparkling, presents being wrapped and food galore. The last thing any family wants, is to be sorting the arrangements for their children.

Agreeing as early as possible about the arrangements so that everyone knows what is going on, including the children is so important. Good communication about these types of issues is often the key, as well as looking at whether arrangements can be alternated each year going forward, avoiding the need for further issues in the future.

Having a full and frank discussion about where the children will be on each day and how handover will work can assist.

There is no hard and fast rule to where the children should be at Christmas. Zoe’s advice to clients is often to think about how the arrangements normally work during holidays and to keep the handovers to a minimum. This will assist in the children feeling they are settled and able to enjoy quality time with each parent. It is likely that you will both have to compromise in some way, so thinking about what is important to you early can help both parents feel at peace with the arrangements, well before the festivities start.

Some parents prefer to alternate the three days of Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) with New Years Eve and New Years Day, whilst others prefer to split Christmas Day itself in two, so that the children see both parents on that special day. What is best for your family situation will often depend on where you both live and the ease for your child of travelling between you both, whether you require a third party to assist in handovers; whether there are any other children of either of you that will want to spend time with their siblings, are just some of the considerations to take on board. Alternating who has the first and second half of Christmas Day where the day itself is split, is also something to consider, as this allows the children and parents to both experience the magic of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning on alternate years.

It will also be a good idea to think about phone or video calls on Christmas Day itself. Many children will want to speak with their other parent on Christmas Day, so arranging a time for this in advance, particularly for younger children who do not have their own phone, will be an important consideration to ensure that calls are not being made in the middle of Christmas dinner or that festive Christmas Day walk.

When trying to agree plans with your ex-partner, it is important to stay neutral and avoid emotive language. Try and stay focused on what is best for the children and what works for all involved.  Whilst it is important to keep the children at the forefront of the decision making, it is particularly important to ensure that you do not ask them to choose between you both as this will inevitably but them under unnecessary pressure, trying to please both their parents.  Lastly, once plans have been agreed, set them out in writing, or on a shared calendar so that they can be easily referenced.

If you need support with Christmas contact arrangements, please contact Zoe Robinson at Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors on 01985217464 or zoerobinson@fsmsolicitors.co.uk

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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