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Child access at Christmas – agreeing Christmas contact for divorced parents

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There is a lot of hype about Christmas. We are all bombarded by Christmas adverts for toys and presents and made to feel that gifts equate to the magic of Christmas. Many divorced parents would disagree and say that the magic of Christmas is all about sharing and giving the gift of enabling children to have Christmas contact  with both parents and extended family over the festive period.

Child access solicitors

If you are worried about whether you will get to see your children at Christmas then our child access solicitors can help you. Children law solicitor Angelique Holm can help and advise you on your best options to secure Christmas contact. Call her on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online form.

Child access at Christmas

Christmas is an emotional time of year and it is particularly hard if you have recently separated from or divorced your husband or wife and this is the first Christmas you won't be together as a family. Whilst some families are very organized and start talking about Christmas contact arrangements in June, many parents don’t do so and are only now realising that Christmas is just a few short weeks away. In this blog we look at your Christmas access options and how to try to reach agreement on Christmas contact.

The law and Christmas contact

There isn’t a law that says that children have to spend an equal amount of time with both parents on Christmas day or that children should stay with their main carer. Christmas contact is left to parents to reach agreement over and if they can't then either parent can apply to the family court for a child arrangements order.   

A child arrangements order is just like the old contact or access orders and can set out the arrangements for weekly contact, holiday contact and special occasion contact such as birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Easter, Passover and Diwali should be shared between parents. If there is a particular day that that you can't reach an agreement on where the children should spend their time then the court can be asked to make an order relating to a specific day or holiday period.

Courts prefer parents to sort out Christmas contact between themselves and reach an agreement. Most child access solicitors appreciate that agreeing Christmas access isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially where relatives live a long distance away or grandparents have strong views about upholding family traditions or one or both of you now have new partners and they too have children and grandparents to take into account. Despite an agreement over Christmas contact not being the easy option child access solicitors do say that normally it is the best solution, even if it means you both have to compromise.

Christmas contact options

There are many ways that you can divide your children’s time at Christmas so that they get to spend time with both parents, grandparents and their extended family. Many parents assume that the day has to be split but that isn’t necessarily the case and, in any event, it may not be feasible if both parents live a long way from one another or one has to work part of the day.

Christmas contact options include:

  • Spending all or part of the day together as a family – depending on whether the split was amicable or not this may not be the best option for the family or the children if they will pick up on vibes that their parents are spending the day together under sufferance and for their sake. Christmas together doesn’t necessarily have to be at the family home. It could take place at a more neutral setting such as a grandparent’s house or that of an aunt. Even if your separation was very friendly sharing Christmas together may not be the best option if it will be too emotional for you or give the children mixed messages or a relative will make snide comments that you know you won't be able to cope with;
  • One of you electing to celebrate Christmas early so you have a full day with the children and even enjoy exchanging presents, eating turkey and watching Xmas films. Some parents think that would not be a ‘real’ Christmas for their children but most children prefer to have two special days if their parents can't comfortably spend time together on the 25th December or if splitting Christmas means the children spend the day travelling between homes and having to eat two turkey lunches;
  • Splitting Christmas day so you both get to spend time with the children in your own homes. This plan will only work for the children if you live relatively close to one another and you can reach agreement on who the children will eat with. Otherwise the children face spending part of the day travelling and over faced by food;
  • Agreeing that the children spend the full day with each of you on alternate years and that the parent who doesn’t get to spend Christmas with the children that year gets New Year’s Day  or Easter or the children’s birthday and then the pattern swops the following year.

When it comes to sorting out Christmas access to children there are so many imponderables and factors to consider such as:

  • Whether you or your ex-spouse has a new partner or step children to consider and to take their preferences into account;
  • Geographical distances between parental homes and extended family;
  • Whether you or your former spouse will be able to take time off from work over the Christmas period as for some parents Christmas is their busiest period in work;
  • The age and location of relatives as grandparents won't want to miss out on seeing their grandchildren;
  • The children’s views as depending on the age of the children they may have a view about how they should spend the day.  

What is the best Christmas contact plan?

The honest answer is that there isn’t a ‘best Christmas contact plan’ as every family is different. Experienced child access solicitors will tell you that the best thing that they can do is listen to you tell them about your family and then offer guidance. After all dealing with a moody teenager at Christmas is different to Christmas with a toddler who is car sick or having grandparents based in the Philippines who will want to face time or Skype with time zones an additional challenge to cope with.

The best Christmas contact plan is one that you can all live with. It probably won't be perfect as someone always forgets to buy batteries for the children’s battery operated toys, the turkey may end up under or overcooked and everyone may eat far too much. Remember it is just one day and whatever you do on the day it will form part of your children’s childhood memories.   

Child access solicitors

If you need advice about Christmas contact and applying for a child arrangements order then our child access solicitors can help you. Call children law solicitor Angelique for help and advise you on your best options to secure Christmas contact. Call her on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online form.

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