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Posted 21 November 2019
by Aimee Aspinall

Christmas Child Contact: Top Tips

Christmas Present

One of the busiest times of year for family law solicitors specialising in private children law is Christmas. Separated parents often can’t agree on who is going to have the children for what periods over the festive season. Naturally, both parents want to share the magic of Christmas with their children. So how do you resolve a dispute? Here are our top tips:

  1. Focus on the children. The law is very clear that the welfare of the children is paramount and therefore parents must always think about what is in their child’s best interests.
  2. Plan ahead. Try not to leave these important conversations until December. If agreement can’t be reached and an application to court is needed, these can take weeks if not months to deal with. It’s best to get early legal advice if you are concerned that there are going to be issues leading into the Christmas period.
  3. Try to agree arrangements out of court. Consider setting time aside to have a constructive discussion with your ex-partner over the arrangements, make time away from the children specifically to consider the arrangements.
  4. If you are unable to talk to one another without assistance then Mediation can be a brilliant setting for resolving disputes between parents. This of course isn’t always the case and there are exceptions. Mediation should be the first port of call when a dispute arises alongside legal advice.
  5. Double Christmas! Rather than feel as though one parent is missing out, try and agree a split of time over the festive period with, for example, the children staying at one parent’s to open presents on Christmas morning before being collected by the other parent later in the day.
  6. Alternate the arrangements. Don’t just think about this Christmas. Rather, have a think about alternating Christmas contact so, mum gets the first half of Christmas this year and the second next year. The Christmas festivities continue past Christmas Day and the children will usually have up to two weeks off school, so don’t just confine plans to Christmas and Boxing Day. Think about what will happen next year.
  7. Try to work the arrangements so that the children don’t end up having two Christmas dinners on Christmas day, this can be frustrating for the children and not good for their waistline!
  8. Don’t try to out-present each other. Some parents, often through guilt, will try and compete with former partners over presents. Don’t. You are probably trying to navigate the new co-parenting relationship with your ex, post-separation, and adding in a layer of competition isn’t going to help.
  9. Talk to one another about what presents you are thinking of buying so as not to duplicate gifts.
  10. Let your children take their presents with them to play with at your ex’s.
  11. Involve the wider family. Christmas is a big family celebration so make sure the children get to see grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc on both sides.
  12. Support your ex. Once things are agreed, support the time the children are to spend with your ex. Take an interest. And don’t forget that the children will want to make sure mum and dad have a present to open on Christmas day – so help them pick out a present to take to her/him.
  13. Talk to the children. One of the points in the welfare checklist family lawyers and courts refer to when dealing with issues relating to contact refers to the wishes and feelings of the children. Unless they are very young, the children might have something to say about what happens over Christmas. Listen to them and try and do what is best for them in the light of their wishes.

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About the author

Aimee Aspinall

Chartered Legal Executive

Chartered Legal Executive in the Exeter family team