You may have already started your preparations for Christmas with Christmas shopping, festivity preparation, replying to the all-important Christmas party of the year invitation. In the midst of the festivities have you communicated to your children what is happening over Christmas? If you haven’t already sorted out Christmas contact you should do so now and at the latest by the end of November.
As a senior family solicitor, I’m very familiar with the last minute calls from my clients to resolve the Christmas contact arrangements. From my experience, I have developed some best practice and advice and wish to share with you my tops tips to ensure your Christmas goes smoothly:
Early planning is essential. By leaving it to the last minute you run the risk of finding it is too late to contact the solicitor, mediator or make an application to the court. Christmas contact is not a reason for the court to speed up the process and any application if an agreement cannot be reached, should have been made by now so if you’re reading this thinking I’ll just go to court, you may find you’re out of time. Court is a last resort after all.
Parental conflict should be put to one side and the focus should be ensuring that the children have a lovely Christmas and get to spend time with both of you. Whatever your opinions of one another or other issues you have, focus solely on resolving the Christmas arrangements. The other stuff can wait until the New Year.
You know your children better than anyone and depending on their age and maturity their views will have more weight as they grow older. Be careful not to influence your children. Remember you are the adults and you are to make the decisions which are in their best interests. It is not for the children to make the arrangements and they should not feel pressured to do so. Avoid them being caught up in the conflict, remember this is supposed to be a happy time for them.
Clearly communicate the arrangements and think about who is going to pick up and return the children. What time will handover take place and where? Don’t have the children travelling for long periods of time on Christmas Day and remember Christmas is not just one day. If you live 2-3hrs apart, alternate Christmas and provide for time spent with the other person from Boxing Day, for example. If you live close by share Christmas Day but don’t make the children eat two Christmas dinners on the same day as there is only so many helpings of Brussels sprouts any one person can handle. Build Skype/facetime, WhatsApp calls into any arrangements especially if the children are alternating Christmas with each parent.
With the vast changes to climate change and issues with public transport, there may be disruptions to travel. If international travel is taking place, ensure plans are in place in advance and a contingency in case you cannot travel. If there is a high level of conflict, speak to a resolution family specialist at Neves, consider mediation way in advance or use an app aid such as Our Family Wizard https://www.ourfamilywizard.co.uk/ to help reduce the conflict. Compromise, it’s Christmas, the season of goodwill, think of the children and not yourself.
The children may have the opportunity to see extended family members. You may have a family tradition that the children are accustomed to every year of going to Christmas mass or seeing Granny on Boxing Day. Think about how best to organise around these events when clashes arise and consider appropriate solutions and compromises. Avoid getting into Christmas gift competitions if possible, try to discuss what presents you will each buy the children at Christmas so as to avoid duplication and the temptation to 'out-do' the other parent with the showering of gifts.
By sorting the arrangements now, your will immediately reduce any unnecessary last minute stress, your children will know the arrangements and by working together your children can think only of the wonderful Christmas they will have with you.