The build up to Christmas is an enchanting and exciting time for children. However, for parents who are separated, the run up to Christmas can be a challenging time.

Whether you have been separated for some time, or this is your first Christmas facing the difficulty of sharing time with your children, there are often disagreements that arise over child contact around the festive period.

Our expert Family Solicitor, Louise Margiotta, shares some practical words of advice for co-parenting peacefully and keeping the magic alive for your children.

Make Plans in Advance

When sharing time with the children over the school holidays and Christmas period, it helps to be organised and communicate your plans with each other in plenty of good time.  Making arrangements early can help you to plan your Christmas activities, family visits and it gives your children time to digest their schedule. If you run into disputes over arrangements, having these conversations early can give you time to resolve them or seek legal advice if required. Don’t leave these conversations to the last minute!

Not All Families are the Same

It is important to remember that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ arrangement that works for all separated or blended families. What works for some, might not be suitable for you. Try not to compare what other families are doing and instead focus on what sits comfortably with you and your children.

Prepare to be Flexible

Whilst it is ideal to have a plan in place, be mindful that unforeseen events can happen and that those plans may need to be flexible. Changes of plan can be difficult, particularly over Christmas where logistics can be tricky and there are emotions involved, but it is important to remain calm.

Make Your Children the Priority

Parents might have their views on what the Christmas contact plan should look like but focus on prioritising the children’s needs and wellbeing first. If your children are older, then consider speaking to them and get their ideas on what they might like to do over the Christmas holidays, if this is appropriate.

Season of Goodwill

It is the time of year to be at peace with one another. That might be easier said than done for parents who are separated and struggling to see eye to eye. But be mindful of what your children could overhear, pick up on or witness over this special time of year. As you should all year round, protect them from any disputes or conflict.

Keep Things Fair

It is likely that both sets of parents will want the children to spend time with extended family and friends over the Christmas period. This can sometimes be difficult to accommodate, especially when there is distance between houses, tight time schedules or lots of family to get round to. Many families will alternate Christmas Day and Boxing Day each year to make things fair. Try to find a solution that allows both mum and dad to get equal time.

Remember There are ‘12 Days of Christmas’

In the rush of trying to squeeze everything in over 1 or 2 special days, it is worth considering spreading your Christmas out. Quite often children, particularly younger ones, can be overwhelmed with the new toys, games and excitement of Christmas Day. If you are struggling to be apart from your children over Christmas, make the most of all the fun you can have in the build-up – Christmas markets, visits to Santa, ice-skating and arts and crafts. Make plans for quality family time before and after Christmas day itself.

Respect Traditions

You and your ex-partner may have different traditions, celebrations and ideas over the Christmas period. It is important to be mindful of your differences. Some people can be upset about losing their family traditions that they have, perhaps, carried out for many years prior to the separation, but these can be maintained and sometimes even still done together as a family, if suitable. Communicate any important traditions or aspects of Christmas that are really special to you and respect one another’s requests.

Legal Advice for Separated Parents

Christmas is a special time of year for children of all ages. Keeping the Christmas spirit alive with good communication, considered plans and flexibility can help you co-parent peacefully over the festive period.

Agreeing on how to split Christmas between separated parents can be difficult and it is an issue that comes up every year for Family Solicitors.

If you need help resolving a dispute about child contact, broken court orders or need guidance on your parental rights, then please get in touch.

If you are recently separated and are considering divorce in the New Year, then speaking to a member of our Family Law Team can help you to understand the process. We offer a fixed fee appointment (either in person, over the phone or remotely) where you can explore your options, understand your rights and consider your next steps.

Call our Family Law Team on 01206 574431 or email info@tsplegal.com.