Christmas can be a stressful time for divorced parents. Child custody arrangements that work well for most of the year can become strained over the festive season, as parents adapt to life after divorce. Avoid upset over the Christmas holidays by planning
Every year, our family law solicitors meet parents facing difficult questions around Christmas following a divorce. How can parents decide who the children will spend Christmas day with? What happens when a parent faces spending the whole of Christmas without seeing their children? There are steps parents can take to make sure the holiday runs as smoothly as possible.
Most families adjust to the new ‘normal’ following a separation, which means that children spend time at Christmas with both parents. If handled sensitively, children adjust quickly and look forward to the opportunity to share their Christmas celebrations with both parts of their family.
Usually, it is the parents who find adjusting to not being able to be with their child over the entire Christmas period the hardest. They key is to plan ahead and not leave the difficult decisions to the last minute. If you think Christmas is likely to be a tricky subject start conversations no later than Easter each year.
Some parents tell us that they dread the onset of Christmas and struggle to accept the new arrangements. Long term, being able to truly co-parent your child so that they understand that both parents love them and want to spend positive periods of time with them, is the ideal. It’s easier for some to achieve this than others.
Talk to each other
If there are no welfare issues, it is usually quicker and cheaper than going to court to use a specialist family law solicitor. They will arrange a meeting with your former partner, and their solicitor (if any) to negotiate how child care over Christmas will be split. Communication is the key. Airing your thoughts normally pays off - allowing you to negotiate a fair, practical custody agreement over the Christmas period well in advance.
Ensuring your child can spend time with both parents, and extended family, is vital to most families. Your plans don’t have to focus around the grandparent’s availability but making sure your child can see their extended family over the Christmas period is important to the entire family.
Don’t leave Christmas to the last minute. If you think Christmas is going to be a problem, seek legal advice well in advance of the 21st December. This will give you plenty of time to reach an agreement that suits the needs of both parents, and your children.
The court system is always busy – and it gets manic in the run up to Christmas. Talk to each other, and start the conversation early, to avoid disappointment this Christmas.