Christmas is a magical time of year for children but for many separated or divorced parents, the prospect of having to agree the contact arrangements over the festive period fills them with dread.
My top tips on how to avoid a child contact Christmas nightmare are as follows:
- Get Organised
Bite the bullet to avoid last minute squabbles over who gets to spend time with the children over Christmas. Open lines of communication with your ex early on.
Set out in detail what you are proposing, including dates, times, handover arrangements and decision on presents. Think about presenting a joint gift from mum and dad and agree which gifts you are going to buy – it is not a competition!
Ideally, both parents should have the opportunity to give the children a wonderful Christmas; whether this means alternating Christmas Day each year so the children stay with you on a Christmas Day one year and Boxing Day the next. Boxing Day can be treated like a second Christmas Day.
Alternatively, you may decide to both spend time with your children on Christmas Day by one parent collecting the children later on.
Do not ask the children to make the decisions; this places far too much pressure on them to choose between their parents who they will not want to upset.
- Be Prepared to Compromise
The festive period is mainly one for children to enjoy and they would rather their parents be relaxed and happy then being caught in the crossfire of constant rows and bickering. Put the children’s best interests first and consider compromises; this is not an opportunity to score points and there will be other Christmases and special times to be had with the children.
Do not underestimate the toll placed on children as a result of conflict between parents, especially at this festive time of year.
Ensure the children get to see extended family members whom they may not often be able to spend time with.
- Consider Mediation
Family mediation can help you sort out the arrangements for Christmas if you are struggling to communicate directly with your ex.
An independent trained professional will help you both to cooperate and reach agreements.
Mediation can prevent the stress, time and cost involved in going to court.
You do not even need to sit in the same room together if you do not want to as you can try shuttle mediation, whereby the mediator goes between you both.
- Instruct a Specialist Children Lawyer Sooner Rather Than Later
In the absence of a direct agreement or successful mediation, instruct a specialist children lawyer in plenty of time to put forward your proposals formerly or make an application to the court, as a last resort.
Courts are often inundated with hearings before Christmas so do not leave it too late.
For legal advice on child custody, known as children law, or to speak with a child custody specialist call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and tell us when is best to call you back.
Georgina Chase is a family lawyer with children law expertise based in Slater and Gordon’s Manchester office.