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.
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).
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.
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:
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.