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Christmas can be a testing time for everyone, but it can be especially difficult for those that co-parent when trying to arrange who gets to spend time with their child(ren) on Christmas day. It is not long now until Christmas and we thought we could put together some useful tips for parents below.

  1. Communication

As always, communication is key.

It could be that you can easily agree to spend the day 50/50 with the other parent, or it may be the case that some parents want to spend the main dates with the child(ren) but are happy to alternate years. Whichever does work for your family, it is of course a personal choice.

It is best to broach the matter sooner rather than later in case an agreement cannot be reached quickly. If it is not possible to communicate face – to – face, then an agreement can be made over text, by email, or another agreed method.

  1. Be amicable and fair with the other parent

Being amicable with an ex-partner may be easier said than done, especially when it may be your first Christmas apart.

It is likely both parents will want to spend as much time as possible with their child(ren) over Christmas. It is important that parents enter discussions with an open mind and are fair to each other. The best thing to do is consider whether you would be happy with the plans for Christmas if you were in their position. If not, then have another discussion and reconsider the options.

  1. Remember to focus on the children and keep them informed

Christmas cannot only be difficult for those co-parenting but it can be tough for your child(ren) too. It is very important that the child(ren) are put at the heart of any plans that are made.

Its is important to consider their views, but they should not be asked to choose between their parents. There is no formula in place to determine what arrangements are made, but the key dates should be considered i.e. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.

Notifying your child(ren) of the plan will help them feel secure. There are many child-focused ways of doing this, including visual plans like making a Christmas themed calendar together. For the majority of children, in the absence of welfare concerns, they will likely be very happy if they can see both parents over the Christmas period and enjoy time with each of them. It is up to the parents to make that happen.

  1. Stick to the agreement

Christmas can sneak up on you, so take steps now to make arrangements for the Christmas period.

Once an agreement is reached, it is imperative that parents stick to it. It could be beneficial to write the plan down so that each parent has a copy. It should state times, places and include handover information.

A level of flexibility will be required, and whilst it is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain stability and consistency. Therefore, if one parent tries to change the plan at the last minute, this will not only cause uncertainty and stress for the child(ren) but can lead to tensions and arguments between the parents which should be avoided.

  1. If necessary, seek formal advice

If you are struggling to avoid conflict when trying to make arrangements, take advice from a family lawyer who can assist in negotiating an agreement.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then mediation can be beneficial as a mediator can help to find some common ground.

If mediation is not successful, then court proceedings are possible. However, they should always be a last resort. In addition, due to backlogs with the court, it is unlikely that you would have prospect of resolving the matter before Christmas at this time of year.

Lyons Davidson solicitors have a dedicated team specialising in Family Law and would be able to advise you on the options that are available to you.  Please contact us on 0344 251 0070. You can also email us at [email protected].