News, events and schools' information for families across Bath and West Wiltshire

By Goughs Solicitor Natasha Miller

December can be a challenging month for separated parents. Not only is it often a very busy time but co-parenting families have the additional worry of organising the arrangements for the children over the festive period, but naturally everyone involved should work towards making Christmas enjoyable for the children.

The Family Law team at Goughs Solicitors has worked with thousands of clients over the years offering advice and support to achieve just that. We have set out some of our top tips for parents to assist in limiting disputes at this time.

1. Communicate

Communication is key to ensure not only do the arrangements work for both parents but more importantly for the children. If face-to-face communication is not an option then it is important to consider reaching an agreement through text, email or other agreed method.

As we know, Christmas comes around all too fast, so take steps now to obtain legal advice on how best to proceed with the arrangements. You can discuss your child contact issues with a solicitor in confidence by contacting your local office. 

2. Focus on the Children

It is important to consider the views of the children if they are old enough, but do not ask them to choose!

There is no set formula for working out the contact arrangements, but it is sensible to consider the key Christmas days such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day separately to the wider holiday arrangements.

There will be several factors to consider such as geography and parents’ working patterns. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and the arrangements should work for the children and both parents.

Whether that be the children spend the key Christmas days with one parent and New Year with the other on alternating years, or whether that be a handover at lunchtime on Christmas Day or indeed Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other, this should be agreed in advance and the children should be the main focus. 

3. Listen and be willing to compromise

Enter into discussions with the other parent with an open mind and be fair to them. This can be especially difficult for couples that have recently separated but consider if your proposals are not only practically achievable for the other parent but importantly fair to them. If you would not be happy with the arrangements if they were reversed the following year, then perhaps you need to reconsider.

We understand that communication with an ex-partner may sometimes be difficult and therefore one may wish to consider the assistance of a family solicitor.

4. Consider setting out your agreement in writing and stick to it

As we know, Christmas comes around all too fast, so take steps now to obtain legal advice on how best to proceed with the arrangements. You can discuss your child contact issues with a solicitor in confidence by contacting your local office. 

When you have reached an agreement it is important to stick to it, including times and places for any handovers. It may assist to write this down so each parent has a copy. If one parent tries to change the arrangements late in the day this not only causes uncertainty and stress for the children but can lead to tension and arguments between the parents which inevitably needs to be avoided.

5. Keep the children informed

If the children are old enough, once the arrangements are agreed it would be sensible to discuss them with the children. If organising the arrangements has been difficult for the parents, then no doubt the children have been wondering where they will be and when over the Christmas period, so let them know in a child-focused and positive manner which will leave them excited by the arrangements. 

Sharing plans with the children means they know where they will be throughout the holiday period and can look forward to spending time with both their parents without anxiety. Knowing there is a plan in place will also help them to feel safe and secure.

For the majority of children, in the absence of any welfare concerns, they will be extremely happy if they can see both parents over the festive period and enjoy quality time with each of them. It is up to the parents to make that happen. 

How can Goughs help?

At Goughs, we understand that a whole range of emotional and practical issues, for both parents and children, come into play when family dynamics change. Fortunately, we deal with these issues every day by supporting and advising our clients, and can help you find the best way to make sense of your situation.

If you’re looking for advice on child arrangements over the Christmas period, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the form below. We offer a free 30-minute no obligation consultation, providing you direct access with one of our professional Family Law specialists.

We will discuss your situation with you and help you understand your options, whilst offering clear, practical advice on how to proceed.

The family team at Goughs have once again been ranked as among the best family law teams in the country. This accolade comes from both, The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners legal directories who quoted, ‘The team is extremely thorough and client-focused. They are willing to go the extra mile and think outside the box.

Do you have any questions about child arrangements? 

Contact Goughs today for your free 30 minute consultation.