It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas contact arrangements

It may seem that Christmas is a long way away but before we know it, we will be doing our last minute shopping in readiness for the big day.

It is best to try to resolve issues in respect of Christmas contact as early as possible. For children, Christmas is a very special time, full of excitement. However, it can create tensions between parents. To avoid such issues, a family solicitor would advise dealing with the arrangements for Christmas contact as soon as possible.

It can be a costly process to resolve these matters through the courts and therefore it is best to try to make arrangements in advance to ensure that all parties enjoy their Christmas and time with the children.

Unfortunately, there are times when the parties will not be able to agree arrangements and in such circumstances, it will be necessary to issue an application to the court to determine issues. Following an application, the court will set a date for the parties to attend. In the first instance, attempts will be made at court to negotiate contact arrangements. If such negotiations are not fruitful, the court may seek the assistance of Cafcass (Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), who will speak to the parties and the children if they are old enough. An independent report may be prepared by Cafcass, who would make recommendations to the court. Parents should bear in mind that any recommendations made by Cafcass will take into consideration various factors including the best interests of the children. This can be a lengthy process and therefore it is imperative that if matters are not agreed then an application is issued as soon as possible to avoid any disappointment over the festive period.

This can be a stressful time for all involved and therefore it is in all parties’ interests to try to reach an amicable agreement. This can be done through solicitors’ correspondence and such issues could be resolved through effective correspondence and communication between the parties (including mediation).

Parties should take into consideration each other’s plans and be prepared to be flexible. Parties should discuss arrangements as soon as possible which should be effectively communicated. It may be sensible to draw up a schedule outlining the arrangements and detailing collections and drop offs. This should not be left to the last minute.

Children will soon be counting down the days to Christmas. Parents can ensure an enjoyable Christmas by ironing out any problems as soon as possible and making sure that arrangement are made taking into the consideration the children’s best interests.