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Christmas contact - prepare now to avoid a nasty surprise
With Christmas just around the corner it’s really important to start the preparations early, making sure everything for the special day is in place. For separated couples, one of the most important considerations will often be the arrangements for their children.
One piece of advice I would always suggest to separating couples would be to reach an agreement regarding all arrangements at the time of separation to include both what happens during term time and during the holidays to include important occasions such as Easter and Christmas. Often the main focus is on what happens during the normal school week and important times of the year like Christmas can be an afterthought.
So how can parents reach agreements about these arrangements? Some may choose a Parenting Plan. A free tool made available by Child and Family Court Advisory Service (known as ‘CAFCASS’); an organisation who support children’s wellbeing in the Family Courts in England and Wales. The main drawback is that parenting plans are a voluntary agreement meaning that any parent can pull out at any time.
Parenting Agreements are traditionally more detailed documents, prepared by solicitors which can, if parents agree, be made into a Court Order and as such, carry more weight.
Other options like mediation can also be considered to try to assist parents into reaching those agreements. I would only ever, recommend a Court application as a last resort. Making an application to the Family Court has the added complication that with increasing numbers of matters coming before the Courts, the timescale for a hearing can be several months which, when there is a dispute over a special occasion such as Christmas, is too long to wait.
So how should parents divide Christmas? There is no “one size fits all” arrangement here. Some parents like to have Christmas Eve to the middle of Christmas Day with one parent and the middle of Christmas Day to Boxing Day with the other. Or one parent can have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the other have Boxing Day. These arrangements can be alternated from year to year.
Key in deciding the arrangements is what is in the best interest of the child and ultimately what works for them.
Having clear arrangements in place for each year at Christmas can avoid stress and upset at what should be the happiest time of the year. Most solicitors offices close between Christmas and New Year, meaning that advice can be hard to find should any problems arise.
At HCB we are here to provide you with all the advice and support you need to ensure the happiest time of year remains just that.