Janine Hutson from Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team offers guidance to separated and divorced parents about managing arrangements for children over the Christmas period.
While Christmas is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for many, it can often be a difficult time for recently separated couples with children.
Agreeing arrangements to spend time with your children can be a challenge for separated or divorced couples at any time, but problems may intensify over the festive period. Spending time with family and friends is an important part of Christmas for most, so agreeing arrangements for children to spend time with both parents and their wider families can cause heightened emotions and conflict.
Planning Christmas contact depends primarily on whether there is already a court order in place. Here are some guidelines to both scenarios:
We have a court order, but I want to alter the arrangements, what should I do?
If a court order is already in place regarding your children, then arrangements for Christmas will usually have been set out in the terms of that order. What the court would have considered is best for your children depends on your own circumstances, however the court would usually give children the opportunity to spend time with each parent for some part of the holidays.
The formality of a court order doesn’t always allow for impromptu changes in circumstances, so if there’s an order in place, the best way to overcome any difficulties is to attempt to reach an agreement with your former partner.
If you have a court order and wish to make alternative arrangements, it’s important to seek legal advice, especially if the other parent is not in agreement with your proposals. It is crucially important that court orders are adhered to, so unless there is an agreement between you and your former partner to change the arrangements, then the terms of the order must be followed.
We don’t have a court order in place, where do we go from here?
If there’s no court order in place, the best way to solve any issues in relation to Christmas is to initially discuss these with the other parent. This is the most straightforward way to resolve such issues, remembering that time with your children at Christmas will be very important for both parents. Compromise and fairness are key.
If you can’t come to an agreement, and if mediation proves to be unsuccessful, then you would need to make an application to the court to formalise future contact arrangements.
If you’re having problems making arrangements to see your children over Christmas, it’s important to seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.
For additional information on contact with your children, or for advice on any family law matter, contact Janine on 01772 258321.