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Managing plans for children over the festive season

View profile for Greg Cross
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Are you separated and worried about what arrangements you will be able to make with your ex-partner to be able to see your child(ren) over the upcoming festive season?

If you have not agreed arrangements for seeing your child(ren) over the festive period, it can be a cause of stress and argument between both the parents. Nobody wants this, and in the end, what is the right thing to do, is the right thing for what the child(ren) want to do and where possible to be fair to both parents and their plans/arrangements for the festive season.

How do you split Christmas between divorced parents?
What is the point in being difficult with your ex-partner about when they see the child(ren), if for example, they have already made plans for New Year and so want to see the child(ren) at Christmas? You may well have a year in the future where you have specific plans which you would want them to work around for you. Isn’t it better to be up front and negotiate what works for everyone so that no one person feels they have got the short end of the stick?

How do you do co-parenting for Christmas?
Most parents will agree upon a sensible arrangement that ensures the children enjoy quality time with both parents. We recommend talking with your ex-partner ahead of the festive season, to find out their plans, discuss what  you both want to do and then depending on the age of your child(ren) bring them into the discussion and agree from there.

If no agreement can be reached overall about access to the child(ren) between the parents (which includes school holidays and festive season) ultimately the court would be asked to assist. The court will endeavour to reach an outcome that is in the best interests of the children.

Although there are no “rules” on what a particular contact pattern should be, there are some broad concepts that the court will commonly adopt when there are no welfare concerns and it’s simply a case of the parents not being able to agree and one of these relates to access at the festive season:

  • When parents can’t agree on Christmas day and New Years day arrangements the court will commonly order for the arrangements to be alternated each year so that both parents have the opportunity to spend the special days with the children

To see the others, read our blog on How often will I see my children if we separate?

Should divorced parents do Christmas together?
If you and your ex-partner have an amicable, friendly co-parenting relationship after your divorce, then doing special occasions can be a nice thing for the child(ren) to experience, especially if the child(ren) are young. It can help wider family groupings to continue to get together and develop positive relationships with stepfamily setups.

You know your relationship with your ex-partner and the life they have gone on to build, and if it works for you to do special occasions like Christmas or New Year together, then do this. Of course, this won’t be an option for all ex-partners for a variety of reasons, and so it is not a negative thing not to spend Christmas together with the child(ren). In many occasions where this is the case, it is actually better that you make separate arrangements for each partner to see the child(ren) and let the child(ren) know these arrangements as soon as you can so they know what they are doing and do not feel awkward asking or not wanting to tell one partner what the other is planning to do.

Who gets the kids at Christmas? Does a father have a right to see his child at Christmas?
No parent has any more right over the other parent to get the child(ren) at Christmas. Where you will know you will get them is where you already have arrangements agreed (either agreed between you or court ordered) where you alternate the festive season year in year out between you until the child(ren) are of an age when they can say what they want to do.

Both parents are entitled to see their child(ren) at some point over the festive season. Whether you are the Resident parent (parent with who the children live for the majority) or the Non Resident parent the law is very clear on one thing and that is the involvement of both parents in the children lives is going to further their welfare unless there are significant welfare concerns. In plain English unless the other parent poses a risk of harm to the child, the child should be spending time with that parent and this includes Christmas, New Year and birthdays.

How to agree Christmas contact arrangements
Think about what your child(ren) would like to do with regards to seeing both parents over the festive season. Consider when and how they will be able to see extended family too, like grandparents, who may be visiting the other parent over the festive season. It is positive for child(ren) to have a wider family influence and the festive season can be a great time for this to happen.

If you would like advice on how you can agree child contact arrangements with your partner if you are separated or divorced, please contact a member of our Family Law team at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors.

You can speak to a member of our Family Law team by calling any of our offices:
York 624185
Selby 708957
Malton 600070
Pickering 472121