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Divorce law blog

Top 10 tips for separated or divorced parents for sorting out the Christmas arrangements for the kids

09/12/2014   By: Rose-Marie Drury

We know from our experience as family lawyers that Christmas can be a really difficult time for separated families. Sorting out how the children spend time with both sides of the family is more likely than not going to an emotional issue for any parent. It’s likely to be in your children’s best interests that if possible you agree contact in advance rather than going to court so this December we’ve put together our 10 top tips for sorting out Christmas arrangements.

  1. Let your children know that you and your ex will agree the arrangements together. You can say that you will listen to their views but remind them that ultimately this is a matter for the adults to agree together. Research has shown that children want to know what’s going on but not to have the responsibility for making the actual decisions about when they see each parent. 
  2. Keep your discussions structured. Avoid making demands and take turns to discuss with your ex what dates you each would like the children to spend with you and why. Are there only certain dates when they can see extended family or is there some flexibility? Try to put yourself in your ex’s position. How would you feel if you were them?
  3. Remember there are no set rules for what time the children spend with each of you. Focus on what is in your children’s best interests. For example, if you have young children will they find it difficult to be away from either of you for an extended period of time?
  4. Explore what compromises you can both make. You will both need to be prepared to give as well as take. If your ex is having the children this Christmas can you agree you will have them next Christmas? That’s a common arrangement that works for many families.
  5. Agree the practical arrangements. Who will be picking up the children from where and at what time? Discuss what back up plans you will put in place in case bad weather disrupts your travel plans.
  6. Discuss telephone/Skype contact. When can you call and who will make that call?
  7. Consider creating a joint calendar so that you are both clear what has been agreed. There are a number of online and other materials to help with this.
  8. If you’re not having your children for Christmas day consider arranging a separate Christmas celebration with them for when they are with you. Just be aware that they might not thank you if they have to have two lots of sprouts!
  9. If you find you are struggling to reach an agreement consider going to mediation to try and resolve the issue with a trained family mediator who will act as an impartial referee to help you agree matters. You can find out more information about mediation here.
  10. Once you’ve agreed arrangements let your children know what time they will be spending with each of you in advance so that they can plan and look forward to the time they will have with both of you over the holidays.

You can find more information about agreeing arrangements for your children and helping them deal with your separation in our section on children.

Rose-Marie Drury

Solicitor (Family Lawyer)


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