Many families are now well underway or have already agreed arrangements for their children over the festive period. However, what should be a joyful and child focused time can become fraught, particularly when family members are unable to agree arrangements for their children.
Every year, we receive an influx of enquiries from parents facing difficulties with arrangements over the festive period. Sorting out these arrangements as early as possible is likely to be more important than ever.
What steps should I be taking to address the arrangements for Christmas?
If you already have an existing child arrangement order in place which sets out the arrangements for the festive period, then those arrangements should be adhered to. If the order is not adhered to then the order will have been breached and there is the potential for the other parent to seek enforcement of that order which can include sanctions against the non-complying party.
Where there is no child arrangements order in place, but you have been navigating the difficult issue of Christmas contact for a while, you should try to continue as you have done so in previous years to provide stability and as much normality as possible for your children.
If you are unable to agree arrangements for your children during the festive period, then you may benefit from some advice from one of our specialist family lawyers. If this is the first time the children are going to have their time divided during the festive period it is going to be difficult for everyone involved, not least the children. Care should be taken to ensure the children are protected from any parental conflicts that have the potential to arise during this time.
Try to communicate with the other parent
Communication is key in resolving any issues over the arrangements for your children during the festive period. Mediation and direct discussions are a good way to open up the conversation and keep it going.
In all cases where parents are unable to reach an agreement, we would recommend mediation is tried in the first instance. Particularly, where the issue is limited to where the children should spend their time with each parent and for how long. Mediation is not appropriate for all families and we can provide further advice on the suitability should this be required.
If it is not possible to reach agreement you may need to consider whether a solicitor’s letter should be sent setting out the terms of your proposals for contact in the first instance. It may be possible to negotiate arrangements through the exchange of correspondence and/or attendance at a private arbitration.
Should I make an application to Court?
If arrangements for contact still cannot be agreed then the last resort would be making an application to the Court for a specific issues order and/or child arrangements order, dealing with the issue of contact over the festive period.
The Court encourages all parties to try and resolve matters without recourse to Court proceedings. The family Courts are under significant pressures at this time, and it is difficult to secure hearing time. Urgent applications will be dealt with where the Court considers it necessary, but parties must try and resolve their differences where possible via other means.
Find out more
For any help or support with separation, child arrangement orders, or supporting your children, then please contact our dedicated Family Law team.