Is Everyone Happy?
So, you survived Christmas. How did the arrangements for seeing the children go over the festive season? If you are a separated parent, it can be a very difficult and emotional time of year
How often did you see your children? Did they come and go as they pleased between the two families? Or was it a constant battle to get to see them at all?
In my experience every family has a different arrangement regarding Christmas and every family thinks that their arrangement is normal. There is clearly no normal with regards to when you see your children over the holidays.
The courts like to see parents being amicable and fair with each other. If the court has to decide the arrangements, they often order Christmas Eve with one parent overnight to Christmas Day on alternate years, with the other parent having Christmas Day evening to Boxing Day. This is fair and works well, provided the parents live in close proximity to each other.
The rest of the holidays are usually split with a few days, or even a week with each parent. This can involve much to-ing and fro-ing between households but does ensure that everyone in the wider family gets to see the children. School holidays are often split equally between the parents.
If you have a dispute with your ex about how much time the children should spend with each of you, whether this is at Christmas or any other time of year,the first thing to do is to try to talk about it. If you cannot, then you may wish to instruct a solicitor for independent advice. A specialist family solicitor can advise you as to what is reasonable and fair. They will also look at what is in the best interests of the children as this is always the courts paramount consideration.
If no agreement can be reached through solicitors, or even before you appoint a solicitor, you may wish to consider going to mediation to resolve the children arrangements. A party must refer their case to mediation before court proceedings are issued. Court proceedings should be issued only as a last resort. The courts are only concerned with what is in the best interests of the children.
The advice is always to make your arrangements for the children as far in advance as possible and be fair and reasonable with the other parent.
Children pick up on animosity between parents and arguments in front of children should obviously always be avoided.
If you are in any doubt about sorting out your arrangemaents for the summer or even for next Christmas, I strongly suggest that you speak to a specialist family solicitor as soon as possible.
Don’t leave it until it is too late. Seize the day so that next Christmas is better for the whole family.
Helen Lucking is a partner and head of family and divorce at regional law firm Napthens