The Christmas period is an important time for families – particularly those who have children. But the festive season can often pose a problem for divorced or separated couples, who may find themselves fighting over child access during the Christmas holidays.
Kevin Double, Consultant and family law expert with Palmers Solicitors, explains why and how difficult disputes can arise – and what parents can do to minimise disagreements and ensure children are not negatively affected.
“Divorced or separated parents can often find themselves at loggerheads during the Christmas period, often due to a lack of forward-planning and communication in terms of child contact arrangements over the holidays,” he says.
Kevin adds that Christmas time can be particularly difficult for “non-resident parents” who rarely see their children – and that “resident parents” who have custody need to take this into account.
“In situations such as these, it is important for non-resident parents to know their rights – and for resident parents to take these into consideration and weigh-up the wider implications of preventing their ex-partner from seeing their children at Christmas.
“Assuming there aren’t any serious welfare concerns, it is wise for both parties to start planning for appropriate holiday access as early as possible and to try and reach some form of agreement about dates and times well in advance,” he says.
“There are options for parents which can be agreed ahead of time – such as alternating who gets to spend Christmas Day with the children each year or even having ‘two Christmases’ each year.
“If there is a court order in place, parents should act in accordance with any pre-agreed Child Arrangement Orders,” he said.
Child Arrangement Orders, which regulate the arrangements relating to contact with children after a divorce or separation, have taken over old-fashioned Contact Orders and Residence Orders in recent years.
“Mothers and fathers are able to apply to the Courts for a Child Arrangement Order if they are having trouble reaching an agreement and such an Order has not already been put in place,” Kevin says.
“Such documents can ‘set in stone’ child access arrangements, providing clarity for both parties and reducing the likelihood of any disputes.”
Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Family Law. For more information, please contact Kevin Double or another member of our South Woodham Ferrers Family Law team at firstname.lastname@example.org.