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‘Tis the season to be jolly’ or not?

Posted on 23rd November 2021 in Family Law

Posted by

Ricky Noble

Senior Paralegal
‘Tis the season to be jolly’ or not?

For many families Christmas planning is now well underway and what should be a joyful and child focused time can become difficult for separated parents who are attempting to agree arrangements for their children over the festive period.

We often receive an influx of enquiries from parents facing difficulties whilst trying to make arrangements over the festive period and so it is important to sort the arrangements out as early as possible.


Child Arrangement Orders over Christmas

If you already have an existing child arrangement order 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 such as unpaid community work, financial penalties, and even committing the parent to prison in extreme circumstances.

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 the children during the Christmas period.

If you are unable to agree an arrangement for the 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 safeguarded from any parental conflicts that have the potential to arise during this time.


Communication is key

Communication is key to resolving any issues over Christmas contact arrangements. 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 agreement, we would recommend mediation is tried in the first instance. Particularly, where the issues 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 of mediation.

If it 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. It may be possible to negotiate arrangements through the exchange of correspondence and/ or attendance at a private arbitration.


Court applications

If arrangements for contact cannot still 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 pressure 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.

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