Separated parents – top tips to help families during the festive period
As Christmas approaches, we all start to think about our plans for the festive period. Often these plans centre around family. This can be a stressful time with 101 things to do and so little time. If you are a separated parent, this can be an increasingly difficult time. Navigating through what is best for your children and establishing a fair arrangement in relation to the time that they will spend with each parent and their extended family can be difficult and emotional.
Some families may have a Court order in place setting out the arrangement for the children over the Christmas period. However those that do not have the structure of an order can struggle to know how to approach the change of arrangements from the ‘usual’ routine.
So what can you do to try to ease this process?
Joanna Lofthouse, Senior Associate in Raworths Family team, looks at some tips:
10 tips to help
- Start thinking about Christmas arrangements for your children as early as possible so that hopefully plans can be made and arrangements agreed so that everybody can then enjoy the lead up to Christmas. Initial things to think about:
- What time is available for the children to spend with each parent
- Are there any commitments already made that need to be considered
- Who will collect and return the children and at what time
- What will we do if it is a white Christmas!
- Keep at the forefront of any discussions that the children’s welfare and wishes are your top priority and although this may mean sacrifices of both co-parents time with the children this is for the children’s benefit and them being able to make magical memories with both parents and their extended family.
- Keep talking. Lack of communication can cause concern and mistrust. If you find direct communication difficult, is there a third party who can help? Alternatively, there are Apps such as My Family Wizard and The Talking Parents that are available to help.
- If you feel unable to raise this directly with your former partner, consider suggesting that you both attend mediation to discuss this with the assistance of an independent third party
- Even when relationships are strained, ensure that any difficult discussions take place away from the children as they will benefit from seeing that their parents are able to communicate well and co-parent, so they have the Christmas they wish for.
- Generally, it is best not to directly include the children in the discussion that take place in relation to the children arrangements. If however they have expressed their wishes and views these can be incorporated into these decisions but it should be you as parents making the decision opposed to the children feeling that they need to choose, as this can make them feel conflicted.
- The key is compromise however this is a two way street and both parents should be willing to compromise for the benefit of the children.
- Any change in the children’s ‘usual’ routine should be presented positively by both parents so that the children know that they have each parents blessing to enjoy spending time with their other parent.
- Think long term, if an agreement can be reached, one fair option may be to agree to alternate whom the children spend the main Christmas days with. If a structure can be agreed then both parents know where they are moving forward and can make plans year on year without having to revisit these discussions every year.
- If you are struggling to find common ground and reach an agreement, then it maybe that you need a little help. As Christmas comes around all too quickly take legal advice on how best to proceed with the arrangements as early as possible as if an agreement cannot be reached a last minute application to the Court to consider these arrangements can often not be accommodated by the court.
Thinking about these arrangements early and being willing to put your own needs to one side and thinking about what Christmas the children would most benefit from can reduce the stress of the lead up to Christmas and enable everybody to have a happier Christmas.
Raworths Family team is ranked top tier in the latest Chambers UK guide, an independent guide to the legal profession.
Published on 7 December 2023