Christmas is a time for family get-togethers, fun, laughter and creating happy memories. Arranging contact with your children at this festive time of year is, of course, your number one priority. It can seem a difficult or daunting process, but there is plenty you can do to arrange custody of your child or children over Christmas and New Year, and the DRN team are here to help and advise you.
Despite what you may have heard, there is no legal provision for Christmas contact arrangements, and both parents are advised to come to an agreement between themselves. Courts will only intervene when this has proved fruitless – particularly in cases where communication has broken down.
It’s important to remember that the Courts are usually only concerned with emergencies over Christmas, and the number of Christmas contact cases brought forward are often overwhelming for the Courts to deal with in a timely fashion. Unless there is an urgent issue about the safety of a child, the Courts will generally not become involved in new cases about a child’s arrangements during the Christmas period.
In order to resolve your Christmas contact or custody arrangements, the quickest and most efficient way is to come to an agreement with your estranged partner. To help, here are the DRN family law team’s top tips for arranging Christmas contact, with a focus on the welfare and happiness of your children.
Ask Your Children What They Would Like To Do This Christmas
A study by Simpson Millar in 2014 revealed that just 13% of parents include their child or children in the decision-making process when deciding who should have custody over Christmas.
If your child is old enough, try speaking with them about their wishes. Knowing what your child or children want this Christmas and New Year will help you to discuss arrangements calmly, and work out a plan that puts them first. For your own sake, knowing their wishes also helps to alleviate any fears you might have, and mediate any arguments that might arise.
Agree on Ground-Rules While You Plan Christmas Contact
One of the main causes of disagreements between separated parents over the Christmas holidays relates to routines being changed, and a sense of “competition” being instated.
It’s understandable that you will want to treat your children to everything they want this Christmas. Being seen to be “one upping” the other parent, on the other hand, can cause animosity, and can cause problems for your child once the festive season is over.
If you can discuss the care of your child together, alone or with a mediator, so much the better. Talk through rules to stick to and you’ll save a lot of future aggravation.
Things to consider setting ground-rules on during the Christmas period:
- Bedtimes and curfews
- Limiting certain foods – especially sweets, fast food and sugary drinks
- Internet usage
- Upper limit to present costs
Decide Christmas Plans Early
While it might still feel too early to discuss Christmas, planning your child’s care and custody over the Christmas period is better off planned well in advance. As well as putting your mind at ease that everything is agreed, your child or children will feel better knowing that there is a secure plan in place. That way, everyone can concentrate on looking forward to Christmas.
Try to Relax No Matter The Outcome
There is a possibility that your child may want to spend Christmas with their other parent, or that it’s your ex-partner’s turn to host Christmas with their family.
While this can seem like the worst case scenario, particularly if you no longer have a working amicable relationship with your child’s other parent, it doesn’t have to be a terrible outcome. The truth is, if you are in the position to discuss having your child stay with your ex, it is highly unlikely that they will allow your child to come to any harm. It’s also worth remembering that spending a short time with people you don’t like will not leave your child with any lasting ill effects.
Trying to control what happens during their time away will cause you to stress and this in turn will upset your children. Instead, focus on planning a second Christmas for them to spend with you and your family, and show them how much you love them before and after their visit.
Remember: this is about your child and what’s best for them.
Present a United Front
Whether you secured custody during Christmas or not this year, it is very important to present a united front to your children no matter what.
Your children look up to both of you as role models, and seeing you upset with each other will affect how much they enjoy Christmas. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to make it seem like the pair of you came to the agreement together based on what’s best for your child. This way, they’ll feel included in the decision and believe that both of you have their best interests at heart.
Christmas as a separated family can be tough, but by communicating you can reduce the stress and make sure everyone enjoys Christmas. For more information about our Family Law Team and how we can help with your particular custody case, please visit our Children Matters page or call us on 01282 433 241 to speak to an expert today.