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With the winter holiday fast approaching, family law expert Lisa Bell LL.B, takes a deeper look into some of the challenges faced by separated and divorced parents when making Christmas contact arrangements over the holiday period.
The Christmas holiday can be a complicated time for many separated and divorced parents in the UK. Many people juggle work, family-life, socialising and other commitments with the daily arrangements of shared childcare and child contact. These considerations can be stressful and complicated, as parents arrange contact times for family members during these important periods. While it can undoubtedly be a challenging time, our practical tips can help you navigate Christmas child contact, access, and arrangement issues without dispute, and with minimal disruption to your child or children.
Plan Ahead for Christmas
It’s a good idea to get a head start on these arrangements. Don’t leave them until the mulled wine is on the stove and the chestnuts are roasting on the open fire. Think early about what arrangements need to be made and how they can be effectively managed. The sooner arrangements are discussed and agreed, the lower the chances of disagreements spilling over into the festive period. Start thinking about child contact plans well in advance of October and November. That way you’ll have plenty of time to access family mediation or Court services if an agreement can’t be reached. While very few parents wish to use the Court to decide child arrangements, in some cases it may be unavoidable.
The holiday season is a busy time for UK Courts, which has has only been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore applying for assistance from Court should be done no later than early November.
Agree Contact Arrangements
The amount of contact between parent and child should be agreed by both parties and always centred around what’s best for the child. We understand it can be difficult to spend only limited amounts of time with your child over the festive period. Effectively sharing time is essential to make sure that the child won’t miss out on valuable time with both parents and family members.
In some cases, parents may wish to alternate days yearly. This can ensure that both parties experience special days such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It may be a better fit for you and your respective situations for a child to spend several days, such as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with one party, then several days with the other, such as Christmas Day night and Boxing Day. Alternately, the child could stay with one parent on Christmas Day and spend all other days with the other parent. The good news is that there’s no right or wrong answer here. Find the solution that best suits your arrangement and meets the child’s needs.
Understand When it’s Reasonable to Prevent Contact Between a Parent and Child
Contact between a parent and child should only be prevented when it’s deemed necessary for the protection of the child. For example, if there is a risk that the child may suffer physical or emotional harm while in the care of a parent. Before contact is prevented, consider whether conditions can be enacted to ensure that contact can take place in the best interest of the child. Generally, it’s considered to be in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their life. This is no different during the holiday season.
If you’re Unsure, Get Some Good Advice
The festive season can be a challenge for myriad reasons. Making Christmas contact arrangements between separated and divorced parents can often present a real challenge. If you anticipate a difficult process of arranging child contact plans, my advice is to speak to a family solicitor as soon as possible. It’s always a good idea to discuss possible arrangements with the other parent as early in the year as you can to allow more time for constructive discussion, compromise, and agreement. Last-minute decisions can be stressful, especially as other family members may also be making plans that could clash with those of either parent. The aim should always be to find an amicable solution that puts the child first.
Remember, the holiday season rolls around every year. While you may not manage to make Christmas contact arrangements this year, there is always next year. Ensure that you find a compromise that works for both parents and families.
If you need advice about your child contact arrangements, during the holiday season or throughout the rest of the year, don’t hesitate to contact Progression Solicitors’ Family Department on 01229 580956. From our offices in Ulverston, Barrow-in-Furness, Windermere, Grange and Lancaster, our dedicated team of solicitors are ready to assist you.