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Negotiating Christmas

Parenting

Around this time every year, family lawyers are working hard, trying to sort out Christmas festive season time and changeover arrangements for families. While these will, of course, be different for each family, the general considerations will include:

  1. Safety issues – This should always be the first thing on everyone’s mind. If there are no safety concerns, then fortunately it is a brief thought. If, however, there are issues in this regard, then more thorough consideration is needed.
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    In addition to concerns around physical and psychological safety, consider whether you have any reason to believe that the children may not be returned as agreed? If you do hold such concerns, it is imperative that advice is obtained prior to time commencing. It is really much easier to prevent a situation from arising, perhaps by written agreement or undertaking of the parties, and advising another party to obtain legal advice about such matters, prior to the time commencing.
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  2. Travel issues – Most families that live close to each other will share Christmas Day and/or the festive period, and there can be a variety of arrangements put in place for how that is to occur.
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    Where there is greater distance between the families and each parent wanting to see the children at Christmas, sometimes the travel will be shared so no one parent has to “do too much”. In this case, however, before setting such arrangements in place, remember that this will still require the children to spend much of the special day travelling. Don’t lose sight of this fact and make sure arrangements for Christmas Day and the festive period are in the best interests of the children.
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    It is becoming more and more common for the sharing of Christmas to include FaceTime or video calls for one parent one year and the other parent may have the children for a few days (eg, Christmas Eve until Boxing Day) and then opposite occurs the following year. This sort of arrangement won’t work for all families, and each family has its own needs, but it may be something that could be considered especially if families live a long distance from each other. Alternatively, we are also seeing more and more families have an agreement whereby one family will always have Christmas Day and the other family will always have Boxing Day.
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  3. Needs of the children – All children, and indeed families, have their own needs and parenting orders or agreements are certainly not a “one size fit all” document. It is important that your particular family’s and children’s needs are taken into account by your specialist lawyer. The children may be fine with as much time with each parent or family as possible, they may love going to mum but not her relative that will be at Christmas, the time of year or situation could produce a high level of anxiety for the children or parent. All of these sorts of things need to be considered.
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  4. Other matters – Do either of the parents have issues, such as mental health issues, that tend to get worse at this time of year? Are the children more likely to be around people that may not be as safe? Are there concerns about the length of time that the children are away from their primary carer or home environment? These are just some considerations to take into account.

The best advice we can give you at this time of year is to start the negotiations and preparations early. When an agreement is reached, it is also important that, as far as possible, it be formalised by way of parenting plan or court order so everyone knows not only what they are required to do this Christmas but in following years as well. This provides everyone with ample time to plan, book accommodation and the like, and means that negotiating Christmas time and changeover arrangements is not an ongoing issue every year and the children get to see their whole family around this special time of year.

Contact our team of suitably qualified and experienced solicitors for advice. They will assist you to think outside the box, if that is needed, or otherwise provide you with a workable agreement for this special time of year.

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