Child arrangements at Christmas

November 10th 2022

In the lead up to Christmas, solicitors often receive a flurry of enquiries from separated parents wanting to resolve the arrangements for their children over the Christmas period.

Often we are asked what the norm is for child arrangements at Christmas.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, as what may work for one family will not work for another.  The child’s best interests always needs to be the paramount consideration, so keep the child in mind when trying to work out what the arrangements should be.  

Whilst Christmas can be a magical time for children, trying to agree the arrangements when you are separated can be a headache for the parents.  Is the answer to turn to the courts to decide what should happen?  This often is not the best choice and should be left as an absolute last resort.

Recently a senior family judge has made it clear court applications to resolve child arrangements should only be commenced where absolutely necessary.  The judge also criticised parents for asking the court to micro-manage children arrangements. The court’s view is clear – you should be agreeing these things between you where possible. 

So how can you sort things out yourself?

Often, the best arrangements for children are ones where their parents are able to communicate with each other and agree those arrangements.  If you can sit down and have a conversation with the other parent, that would be the best way to start. Try thinking of things from the child’s perspective and how they would like to spend Christmas with each of their parents.  They will probably want to see all of the important adults in their lives if possible. 

If trying to agree the arrangements direct with the other parent is proving difficult, perhaps mediaiton may help. A mediator will help you to communicate with each other about what you feel would be the best arrangements and will manage your convesation to ensure you don’t end up getting into conflict. The mediator will help you both to see things from each other’s perspective and the perspective of the children and will reality test how any proposed arrangements would work, to see if they are feasible. 

Once you have a plan, present it positively to the children. Act as a united front, if you can. Be positive about the Christmas arrangements and make any move between homes as calm and cheerful as possible. 

Christmas will be different after separation. But it can still be special time for you and your child. Think of it as an opportunity to create new memories and traditions together.