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Seeing your Children at Christmas…Plan ahead

18th December 2014

Q. When is Christmas day? A. It never changes, it always falls on the 25th December regardless. Yet in late November and early December, Family Lawyers throughout the country deal with a sudden surge in clients wanting to resolve Christmas arrangements for their children?

Often there is no Court Order in place, which sets out in black and white what should happen, when and where. Court Orders at least have the benefit of clarity and predictability, qualities which in relation to Christmas are vital.

Much like planning anything, time is really important; do not leave to the last minute, much like buying presents only more so. While rather unseasonable, late summer/early September is a good time to start discussing Christmas with the other parent. This enables plenty of time for you to identify precisely what may be in issue, time to consider what plans you need to make with relatives and then to check those plans and hopefully at some point before the big day finalise them in a way that is clear and intelligible to all.

Christmas poses a dilemma for all separated parents. Naturally, both want to spend time with their children and feel in some sense lacking if they do not. However, the reality is this must be shared between parents and neither parent can properly claim a monopoly at Christmas.

Christmas should draw families together and proper planning can ensure this with separated parents too. If no resolution can be reached in discussions, mediation is a very good way to deal with this issue, although all too often Christmas is but one issue that maybe problematic. If mediation is inappropriate or does not resolve this, then the “last” resort of going to Court is an option. Courts become inundated at Christmas and so to use this facility you must start proceedings well in advance of December. If it appears that you will be unable to resolve your Christmas child arrangements, then by perhaps October you should be thinking about going to Court failing which you are unlikely to get an appointment before the holiday begins.

Ideally any arrangements that are made for one year ought to be mirrored for the year following so that both parties/families have the opportunity to spend time with children during the festive period.

Similar considerations apply to other annual events such as birthdays, holidays etc. In all cases, there is no substitute for good communication, discussions well in advance, and committing everything to writing.

Jim Richards, Family Law

Family Law
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