Agree Christmas arrangements for children now
Christmas is a magical time of the year for children. There is the anticipation of the presents they may receive, the relief of having a few weeks off school and the excitement of seeing friends and family. The hopes of what Christmas may bring are no different for the children of parents who have divorced or separated yet lingering there in the background will be the worry of who they are going to spend Christmas with and whether the parent who misses out will be alright.
To make sure your child has a wonderful and stress-free Christmas this year, Michelle Uppal, family law expert with Miles & Partners Solicitors in the City of London offer some useful tips to estranged parents trying to agree arrangements for their children over the festive period.
1. Plan ahead
Talk to your former partner now about what you would like to happen and how to ensure you both get to spend quality time with your child. Take into account the fact that each of you will want a chance to see your child open their presents and to spend time with members of your respective families you may not see that often.
Some parents find that alternating Christmases works well, so that each parent is guaranteed to have every other Christmas with their child and on their year off they may have them on Boxing Day instead. Others are happy to split Christmas Day in half, so that one parent has their child on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and the other has them Christmas afternoon and Boxing Day.
2. Agree handover arrangements
Think about how your child will move between you. Arrangements need to be practical and not unnecessarily disruptive. Think about transport arrangements if one or both of you is likely to have had a drink and how you will accommodate your child’s almost inevitable desire to take presents they have already opened with them. Consider asking family or friends to get involved in collecting or dropping off your child if this would help.
3. Talk to your child
If your child is old enough to understand what is going on, then it is a good idea to explain the arrangements you have agreed. While young children may be happy to fit in with your plans, teenagers may have plans of their own which need to be considered. Christmas is a busy time of the year, with school plays and parties as well as family commitments to fit in. Whatever their age, knowing which parent they will be with and when, and if they are likely to see you together, can help avoid uncertainty and anxiety.
4. Get help if you need it
If you and your former partner cannot agree on arrangements for your child that work for everyone, talk to your solicitor about how mediation could help. Sometimes, working with a neutral person with no vested interest in the outcome (other than the happiness of your child) can help to resolve deep-rooted differences in opinion and find creative solutions you may not have previously considered.
There are other ways to try and reach agreement other than mediation. Talk to your solicitor about round table meetings with your former partner and the collaborative process.
If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place, it is likely that the question of what will happen at Christmas will have already been agreed, but it is still possible that problems may arise, particularly if you or your former partner want to make different arrangements this year.
5. Approach the court early
Where no order for arrangements is in place, but your solicitor advises that one should be obtained to ensure a workable plan for Christmas can be agreed, you will need to make an application to court as soon as possible to guarantee it is dealt with in time. Talk to your solicitor now if your former partner is being difficult because the court tends to see an increase in applications around this time of year, which means you may have to wait for your case to be heard. You will also need to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting which can take time to organise.
For further advice about arrangements for children, or any other family law matter, please contact Michelle Uppal on 020 7426 0400 or email MU@milesandpartners.com.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.