No Time Like the ‘Present’: Children Arrangements During Christmas

Posted 10th December 2023

In cases of separated parents, timely discussions about Christmas arrangements are crucial. A leading Family Judge urges using court as a last resort, criticising parents who expect courts to ‘micromanage’ these plans. With a thoughtful approach, Jess Leech of Wilson Browne Solicitors guides parents through the delicate process of creating a harmonious festive period for their children.

In situations where parents are separated, every year some parents take advice too late regarding issues about Christmas arrangements.

A leading Family Judge provided clear advice that only as a last resort should parties bring any disputes about arrangements for the children over Christmas to Court and was also critical of parents who brought the matter before court expecting it to ‘micromanage’ arrangements.

The festive period always comes quicker than expected so start the discussions as soon as possible. This is so that you can identify whether an agreement is likely to be reached between you both or whether you may need third-party intervention from a mediator or solicitor.

If an agreement really cannot be reached, court proceedings may be required – as of now, there is no guarantee any application will be considered before Christmas. Complete the groundwork.

Identify what’s important. Is it spending time with the children on Christmas Eve, or rather Christmas Day? Do you or the children have plans with the wider family that should be taken into consideration? Is travelling going to be an issue?

There is no one-size-fits-all for every family, and ultimately it is a personal choice on what is best for the children in the circumstances of each case. You must be prepared to be flexible as inevitably you will both have things that you will want to achieve.

The children are the priority.

Christmas is likely to look different to what it did last year, and it is therefore important that the children feel involved in the plans as soon as possible so that they can come to terms with what Christmas will look like this year.

Older children are likely to have more of an opinion on where they would like to spend their time, and whilst that is not necessarily determinative, it should certainly be a factor that you consider.

Communication is key: the sooner the children have the time to digest the plans, the more comfortable they will feel when the time arrives. Irrespective of your own personal feelings it’s important that a positive approach is made for the children.

Children feel safe and secure when they know the plan so think outside the box. You could create a visual calendar for the children to refer to, setting out where they will be during the festive period.

Consider the other parent.The idea of spending any time over the Christmas period without the children is not an easy one to consider for any parent, but be honest with yourself as to whether the proposal you are making is fair to the other parent.

Put everything in writing. mOnce you have agreed what will happen, put the agreement in writing in either an email or letter. This will ensure that you have covered all areas and prevent any future misunderstandings.

Christmas will be here before we all know it so plan now – we’re here to help so give us a call.

If you’re navigating the complexities of arranging Christmas schedules as separated parents, don’t wait until it’s too late. Take control and start the conversation now. For personalised guidance and support in finding the best solution for your family contact their Family Law Team on 0800 088 6004