December 7, 2021
If you have separated from your children’s other parent, the thought of Christmas can be difficult. Both parents are likely to want to spend some quality time with their children and tensions may arise if you both want to have contact on the same dates.
Christopher Price, partner at Gloucester law firm Tayntons, and head of their family, divorce and children team since 2006, has some tips on agreeing Christmas contact with minimum conflict.
Start planning early
By discussing matters well in advance, you can avoid a stressful last-minute disagreement. It will also give each parent’s other family members the chance to arrange their schedule to spend time with your children if they wish to.
For parents who are separated there are usually compromises to be made and you are likely to see less of your children than you would like. Try and think about where they might like to be and what they would enjoy doing and make sure you are being fair to their other parent, even if this is hard.
By making arrangements early on, you have the chance to get used to the plan and you can also prepare your children.
If conversations with their other parent become difficult, by starting in advance of the festive season you will have the opportunity to put negotiations on hold until you both feel calmer.
While you can consider your children’s wishes, it is a good idea to let them know that ultimately you and their other parent will be making the decision so that they do not feel that they have to choose between you.
Calm and practical
While it may be very difficult not to argue if you feel that your ex is not being fair, try to stay calm. This doesn’t mean that you have to give in, but by not losing your temper, negotiations may be easier.
You should also think about practicalities such as how too much travelling can be avoided. You may also want to discuss what gifts you are each going to give.
When you have reached a decision, it is a good idea to put the details in writing, for example, in an email. This can help avoid misunderstandings or disputes arising later on.
You should also discuss with your children what will be happening. Try not to hint at any difficulties you may have had in making the arrangements or tell them that you will be sad not to be with them. Instead, emphasise how much you are looking forward to spending time with them. You can plan some activities, but it’s also good to make sure you have some time at home together to relax and talk and play games.
If you will not be with your children on Christmas day, you can arrange to give them their presents on a different day and make that into a special day for them to enjoy with you.
Christmas contact options
Some families alternate Christmases with each parent. Alternatively, you could swap over on Christmas day, for example, with your children waking up and having lunch with one parent, then spending the rest of the day with the other parent.
For young children who believe in Father Christmas, it is usually recommended that they wake up in the home that they usually live in as they may worry that Father Christmas won’t find them at their other parent’s home.
You should bear in mind that children may also worry about the parent who is spending Christmas alone and make sure that they are able to speak to them if they want to.
If you cannot reach agreement with your child’s other parent, then a family law solicitor will be able to negotiate with their legal representative on your behalf or support you through mediation to try and avoid a court hearing. It is often the case that once an experienced family lawyer is involved, their practical suggestions can resolve issues quickly.
Christopher Price has worked as a family law solicitor since 2003 and has an excellent track record of success in representing clients in divorce and related issues such as children, property and finances. He has significant court experience and is particularly known for dealing with complex financial cases involving substantial assets as well as his non-confrontational approach to resolving parental disputes.
Chris is a member of Resolution, a group of family lawyers committed to reducing conflict in divorce. He and his team offer clear and practical advice and work with clients to resolve issues constructively.