Whilst it may be the most wonderful time of the year for many, for separated couples Christmas provides the opportunity for heated disputes over which parent the child should spend Christmas Day with causing inevitable distress for both the child and extended family members.
Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 legal professionals who are committed to resolving family law disputes in a non-confrontational approach, recommend that parents maintain a flexible attitude when agreeing child Christmas arrangements with their ex-partner.
Resolution encourages parents to discuss Christmas arrangements at an early stage, to avoid last minute arguments and panic, and recommends that parents avoid making plans or booking events without first confirming with the other parent the child’s availability a forehand.
In some circumstances, reaching an agreement with an ex-partner may seem like an impossible task. Many people wish to visit their friends and family during the Christmas period, and therefore geography may pose a considerable restraint on a parent’s ability to compromise on when and where the child should be during the holidays.
In the event that you are struggling to reach an agreement firstly consult a family law solicitor. Your solicitor can provide you with further advice and guidance and negotiate on your behalf with your ex-partner to try and reach an agreement. Your solicitor can write to your ex-partner setting out your proposals with a view to reach an agreement that will be in the child’s best interests. Many disputing partners find that the involvement of a solicitor who concentrates the focus of the negotiations on the child’s best interests to be beneficial in achieving an agreement.
If this is unsuccessful, your solicitor can make a referral for you and your ex-partner to attend mediation sessions. During these sessions an independent trained mediator will act independently and encourage open communication between you and your ex-partner to reach a child focused agreement.
Mediation can be quicker, cheaper and less stressful than attending court, and the inclusion of an entirely independent third party can help parents reach an agreement who feel that they were otherwise at an impasse.
The last resort should you be unable to reach an agreement is to obtain a Child Arrangement Order from the court. It is common for a Child Arrangements Order to make provisions for the Christmas period as this is a special time for families, however the order can also contain general provisions regarding shared contact that apply year-round.
Disputing parents are strongly urged to reach their own agreement before making an application to court, as the court will only make an order once all other forms of dispute resolution have been exhausted.
There is no definitive rule determining how a child’s time should be spent over the Christmas and New Year period however the Court would aim to share the time equally between the two parents and the child’s best interests would be the determining factor when making their decision.
A Child Arrangements Order is a legally binding court order, and non-compliance with its terms are enforceable including the court imposing a fine or ordering a committal to prison. Obtaining an order may be appropriate if communication between you and your ex-partner has completely deteriorated and you have experienced difficulty in the past with your ex-partner failing to comply with any previous informal agreements you may have reached.
Myerson’s experienced team of family law solicitors are experts in dealing with matters concerning children and making applications to court for a Child Arrangements Order. We understand that what is right for one family, may not be right for another, and seeking an agreement over child arrangements during the Christmas period poses considerable stress and concern for separated parents. If you require advice as to your practical and legal options, then contact us on 0161 941 4000 or email us at email@example.com.