Christmas is supposed to be a time of family get-togethers, plenty of celebrations, and with the focus firmly on the children. However, if you’re going through a divorce or separation, then it can be a difficult time filled with worry, especially if, for the kids, it’s the first Christmas that ‘mummy and daddy’ are not together. At such a pivotal time of the year, it’s important to make sure that differences are put to one side, and that both parties come together to make the atmosphere peaceful and tranquil, so that the children can escape from the worry of mum and dad’s separation for at least a few days.
The easiest way to do this is to make contact arrangements as early as possible and, more importantly, to stick to them. One of the most important things for a child at Christmas is stability, so demonstrating that, while the parents may no longer have a relationship, the child is still at the centre of the family by avoiding chopping and changing plans at the last minute is crucial.
What are the issues around Christmas contact arrangements?
The most common questions family law specialists get at this time of the year revolve around which parent the child should spend the festive season with, and what to do if parents cannot agree on contact arrangements. Here are a few tips to make sure this Christmas is one that’s remembered for all the right reasons.
Get started early
Don’t leave it until the week before Christmas to try and make contact arrangements. Not only is there a greater chance of conflict between separated parents, but it can be deeply unsettling for the children too.
By sitting down and making the arrangements early, it will give everyone a degree of certainty about what is happening, and make sure that everyone is treated fairly, especially the kids. You may have to factor in a certain amount of flexibility into the schedule, as plans can and do change. But the earlier you get the dialogue going, the easier and less stressful it will be if something unexpected comes up closer to the time.
Even if you and your ex-partner are barely on speaking terms, the children certainly shouldn’t be made to suffer as a result, so keep the dialogue going. If you simply cannot talk to each other then get someone to act as an intermediary such as a grandparent or family friend, making sure it’s someone you both can trust. While it may be difficult, it’s important to try and keep things as civil as possible, and leave your emotions to one side. There needs to be a willingness to compromise, always remembering that the discussion should be focused on the children and their needs.
Listen to the kids
If the children are a little older then bear in mind that they probably have an opinion of their own, too. Make them part of the conversation and listen to their viewpoint. It’s also important to be honest with them too, explaining that Christmas may not be the same as ‘normal’, and that there may be some compromises when it comes to where they’re spending the holidays.
Sharing the experience
The most important days of the festive season are of course, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. This is where the most amount of compromise has to be reached, and the Court may alternate these days between parents each year, so both parents get to share that special Christmas morning experience with their children. Alternatively, if you live close together then you may be able to do a ‘handover’ after Christmas lunch. You may find the kids like this idea as they effectively get ‘two Christmas celebrations’ for the price of one!
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