It is somewhat obvious to acknowledge that Christmas is sometimes a difficult period for separated families. The law recognises that it’s important for children to have some consistency about celebrations of important events like Christmas and Birthdays, and to enjoy time with as many family members as possible.

Ultimately, it is a matter for each family as to how to embrace a peaceful and happy Christmas Day following separation. Some families are in a position to enjoy special days together, with parents putting aside differences to ensure that they are both available to their celebrating child at the same time. This isn’t the most practical option where there is any risk of open conflict, or new partners and children are involved. Some embrace the prospect of a shared day, so one parent enjoys celebrations with the child on the eve of the special day and morning, and either prior to or following lunch the child moves to the other parent to enjoy the afternoon and evening. This works effectively when the distance between households is limited. Based on the routine of extended family celebrations, it might work for this to remain consistent from year to year, or alternatively it could be swapped each year.

Where distance is problematic, many parents agree to the prospect of a child spending the entire Christmas period (or birthday) in alternate years with each parent. For some this is a painful alternative, and whilst telephone and SKYPE time can be enjoyed, often children will be somewhat despondent about the prospect of missing out entirely on spending time with a parent on a special day like Christmas or birthday.

Ultimately, the Court does seek that parents be guided by their children’s needs. Many older children will comfortably embrace the prospect of spending alternate Christmas or birthdays with a parent (and particularly if presents are still exchanged in a ceremonious way on a separate occasion). Younger children may need parents to put aside their personal desires in order to have a more joint day. It is most important to ensure that there is no potential for conflict in the presence of the children. Best wishes for safe and happy Christmas period.

Kara Best
Director