Whilst retailers have been trying to sell us the idea of buying Christmas gifts since the summer, most of us will have ignored those advances, and will probably not properly turn our minds not turn our minds to the festive period until this month. Indeed, some others may not start thinking about it until Christmas Eve!
From our perspective as family lawyers, we cannot stress enough how important it is to turn your mind now to the arrangements for the care of your children over both the Christmas school holidays and what can be the few contentious days around Christmas. You need time to resolve any disputes over who sees the children on which days.
This year Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, which means your existing weekend pattern of care will need to be varied. You will also need to divide the rest of your children’s school holiday period.
There is no right or wrong formula which the court will impose on separated parents over Christmas. Some parents choose to divide Christmas Day, some alternate the Christmas period and the New Year period between them each year. The court will try to find a solution which works for your children and achieves fairness. The attitude of judges however is that children will perceive two Christmas days, one with each parent, as a bonanza of presents, chocolate and attention!
The first stage in resolving any issues around Christmas is always to try and reach an agreement directly with the other parent. Ultimately if you cannot do so, then one of you can apply to the court for a Judge or Magistrates to make the decision for you. You need to make this application in good time to give the court time to deal with it.
A court application is very much a last resort. The Judge will expect both parents to try to reach a compromise. The guiding principle the court will use is for fairness for your children to spend time with both of their parents over the festive period. This should also be your guiding principle.