The government announced on 2 December 2020 that the lockdown rules will relax around Christmas so that up to three households can mix during the festive period.
When parents separate it is important to discuss any Christmas plans for the children with your ex-partner in order to determine an arrangement that works. However, if Christmas plans cannot be arranged then generally the next step would be to see if a mediator can assist in helping the parents reach an agreement. If this does not work then an application to the Court can be made. However, the courts will not view resolving Christmas arrangements as an urgent issue so it is vitally important that parents do not leave things until the last minute.
So what is fair?
Parents must bear in mind that there is no set formula to a “perfect family Christmas” however if matters did proceed to court then the court will only make any contact orders for the children based on what the court believes is in the child’s best interests. The court will have expected both parents to have tried to resolve any disagreements as to Christmas contact between themselves first or via mediation before any matters are brought before the court. Parents should view an application to the court as a last resort.
With older children, it is often suggested by the court that the children should spend Christmas with each parent on an alternating basis. For example, this could be splitting Christmas day in half and alternating each year who has the children for lunch, or it could be longer periods of time with each parent on an alternating basis such as the child spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with one parent followed by a swap to the other parent the following year.
Parents must always bear in mind that the children remain the court’s paramount consideration and where there are lengthy periods of travel to facilitate handovers then the parents must give some thought to this. Some children do not cope well with lengthy travel and become agitated, sleepy, and moody. It is therefore advisable to cut down travel as much as possible and in some circumstances a week with each parent during the Christmas holiday may be more preferred. Each case very much depends on its own facts.
It is further important to note that the court will take into account family traditions and religious beliefs although the children’s interest must come first.
The Court will generally strive to order arrangements that are fair to both parents so it is unlikely the children will remain with one parent for the whole Christmas period.
Here at Freeman Jones, we understand that Christmas is a special time of year and for most people spending quality time with their children as a family is top of their Christmas list.
If you are struggling to make arrangements that both of you can agree on, then please speak to our family law solicitors in Chester today to determine your next steps.