Christmas is a time for families to come together but for those families which have separated it can be a challenging time.
It is always difficult to decide who should spend time with children and when. The festive season may still be some way off but at Slater and Gordon we have already seen an increase in the number of enquiries from clients about how to divide time over Christmas.
Here are my eight top tips to help separated couples manage the festive period:
- Compromise is crucial. Christmas is a magical time where your children should be at the heart of any plans. Think about how they would like to spend their Christmas day.
- Plan your arrangements as early as possible. This should give you plenty of time to identify and amicably resolve any potential disagreements. And if clashes can’t be resolved, then look at other options – including attending mediation, seeking advice from a family lawyer or ultimately if an agreement really cannot be reached then an application to the court can be made.
- Before making an application to the court specialist advice from a family lawyer should be sought.
- If you do feel you have exhausted all other options and need to make an application to the court, then this application should be made as soon as possible. The courts are very busy and December is one of the most congested months. Depending on how busy your local court is applications generally take anything from one to four months to be heard.
- Some separating parents choose to split Christmas day. This tends to work best when parents live close together. If you do not live nearby then splitting Christmas day may not be in your children’s best interests and it is often considered unfair to expect children to have to travel on Christmas day.
- If just one parent is going to spend Christmas day with the children, then this should be alternated next year with the other parent. If you are the parent who does not have the children this Christmas then try and recreate Christmas day on another day such as Boxing Day so the children have the benefit of two Christmases.
- Importantly, try to relax and enjoy the time you have with the children on whatever day is it.
- After the Christmas period is over, it is important to reflect on what has and has not worked for the children. Parents should then discuss this and work together to ensure the same issues are not encountered again.
For an initial consultation please call the police family law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0808 175 7710 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively you can contact us via your local federation.
Amanda McAlister is the head of family law at Slater and Gordon.