Family Arrangements

Over The Festive Period

Making arrangements for children over the festive period can be difficult in separated families. Here, one of Forbes’ Associate Solicitors, Sarah Robson, looks at the options when an agreement cannot be reached. Sarah also considers disagreements over school choices

Festivities are a special time for children – not just Christmas, but any special occasion celebrated by a family. Children want to enjoy the time without worrying about seeing their parents. Try to make arrangements well in advance. For families where parents have been separated for a number of years, there is often an established routine in place. For families facing their first Christmas as a separated family there is no precedent to follow.

There is no legal formula to dictate what the arrangement should be. Some children enjoy two Christmas days – one with each parent. Some separated families alternate the arrangements on a yearly basis with one parent having the children from Christmas Eve until Christmas Day, then the other having the children from lunchtime on Christmas Day until Boxing Day.

If you are unable to reach an agreement, seek legal advice early so that solicitors can assist in trying to reach a compromise.

As a last resort an application to court is made for a child arrangements order. The family court is very stretched and the court would expect to see concerted efforts by parents to agree arrangements for their children. The court decides what is in the best interests of that child – a decision generally best made by the parents.

Some families at this time are faced with the difficult decision of school applications. Secondary school applications have already been submitted for children starting school in 2023. Primary school applications close in January 2023 for children starting in 2023. Even if your child is in Year 5, if there is likely to be a dispute start the conversation now.

It is important to acknowledge that this is a joint decision. Both parents generally share parental responsibility for their children, giving them an equal part in the decision making, irrespective of the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Do some research – schools open at this time of year for new parents to visit. Look at recent Ofsted reports, but also the practicalities of each school. Endeavour to have some constructive discussions but if it becomes clear you won’t agree, seek very prompt legal advice. If mediation is unsuccessful you can apply to court. Again, the court is determining an issue rather than the child’s parents.

Where parents are divorcing and one party seeks financial support to send their children to a fee-paying school, or to keep them at a fee-paying school, it is the rules of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that apply. The court can make a school fees order, either by consent or by order.

For couples who have not been married, the court can make financial provision for the children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. These applications are more likely to succeed if the child is already at a fee-paying school.

If you are considering one of these applications or concerned about how the ongoing school fees will be paid after separation, then you will need specialist advice from a family lawyer.

To speak to a family lawyer at Forbes Solicitors, email Sarah Robson at: or call 0333 207 1130



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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