Christmas is a time of year for families to enjoy together. For separated parents, however, the reality can be one of a logistical nightmare before Christmas, and never more so than this year as we try to navigate our way through ever changing restrictions on travel and contact with loved ones.
Here, our Family Law team outlines 12 top tips to keep in mind throughout the festive period.
1) Plan ahead so there is time to identify important dates to arrange holidays from work, organise "bubbles" – and take advice if necessary.
2) When thinking of possible arrangements, factor in time for your children to open and play with presents on Christmas morning. The fact that most children wake up at around 4am on Christmas Day makes this a bit easier…
3) Consider travel time (in winter conditions) between homes if you are thinking of moving between the two on the same day.
4) Do not ask the children to decide which parent they want to spend Christmas with. Bear in mind, however, that they may have views on the matter that they wish to express themselves.
5) Try not to compare this Christmas with previous years. Start new and positive traditions with family and friends.
6) If the other parent will not be with the children on Christmas Day, think about setting aside a time for phone/Skype call. This is likely to be appreciated and reciprocated in future.
7) If the children are not with you on Christmas Day this year, consider recreating the magic for them on the first day you do have them. Most children would love to have two Christmases.
8) Consider whether the other parent has particularly strong traditions at this time of year, whether for religious reasons or otherwise. Respecting those traditions at such an important time of year is likely to be noticed and appreciated by the extended family, and will hopefully be reciprocated on another day when it really matters to you.
9) Make arrangements for longer term plans rather than focusing on the short term, e.g. agreeing to alternate Christmas contact each year.
10) Try to keep a record of what you have agreed in writing/e-mail trail so you can refer back to it easily in the event of any disagreement or misunderstanding in future.
11) Make sure Father Christmas has been made aware of any new addresses and any potential access problems – you don’t want the children worrying about Santa not finding them!
12) Lastly, if you are finding it difficult to reach agreement then a family law specialist should be able to help you come to a suitable compromise, and usually without the need for any formal legal action.