Child Contact Matters

Am I coming home for Christmas?

07/12/2023

Christmas is meant to be a joyous time. However, family tensions can often make it a difficult experience.

It is only natural for parents to want to see their child(ren) during the festive period. Therefore, if there are no formal court ordered arrangements parents should discuss and settle arrangements with each other in advance. This will allow them as well as their child(ren) to take comfort in knowing what the plans are.

Rights

The law sets out that children have a right to a relationship with and to spend time with both parents (if this is safe), not the other way around. The law establishes that parents have responsibilities towards their child(ren).

Contact difficulties

When a couple separate, there can often be conflict over who the child(ren) spend special occasions with such as birthdays, mother’s and father’s days, and especially Christmas. In such circumstances the parent who no longer occupies the child’s primary home may feel prejudiced and the child is sometimes denied equal access to both parents during this time of year.

Families are always encouraged to negotiate directly with each other and try to reach their own agreement.  For example, some separated families agree that their child(ren) can spend Christmas with each parent on an annually alternating basis, or some agree to have the week prior to and including Christmas day and the other parent spends time with the child(ren) from Boxing day onwards for a week. Some families even agree to divide Christmas day, meaning the child(ren) are with one parent in the morning and the other in the evening (although this tends not to be a popular choice as it can be unsettling for the child, dependent on their sensitivities). It really does depend on the needs of each family.

If there is no agreement between the separated parents about Christmas contact arrangements the non- resident parent may feel powerless in resolving matters, but on the other side of things the resident parent may feel anxious about Christmas day being disrupted by the non-resident parent attending their home to confront them on the issue. Both of which are unpleasant to experience. However, there are solutions.

Solutions

If you are unable to directly reach an agreement with your former partner about contact arrangements for your child(ren) at Christmas, we suggest that you consider the following:

  1. A solicitor could draft a letter of your proposals for contact during this time of year and invite your former partner to accept or make alternative proposals. It can help to have a third party involved, especially a Resolution Family Specialist, who will seek to keep any possible tensions low.
  2. An alternative third-party negotiation is via mediation. A mediator is trained to work with you and your former partner to help narrow your points of disagreement to reach a resolve.
  3. If the above does not fully resolve matters then you will need to consider making an application to the Family Court for a Child Arrangement Order, which determines who your child(ren) will live with and the nature, duration and frequency of time spent with the non- resident parent, including special occasions and school holidays. Once the court determines these arrangements it is legally binding. Should the order be breached the parent not following the order would be in contempt of court and the terms of the order could be enforced to impose sanctions on the breaching parents.

How Pinney Talfourd can help

The family department at Pinney Talfourd are ranked Tier 1 (Legal 500) and can provide you with the best legal advice on child contact matters.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Shevonne Weir, Solicitor in the Family team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of December 2023.

07/12/2023

Authors

Shevonne Weir

Shevonne Weir

Solicitor

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