The festive season is upon us. Another year is, unbelievably, nearly over. The month of December is often one which provides an opportunity for reflection on the past and plans are made for the year ahead. It is also the month when many parents make final preparations in the hope of giving their children a Christmas to remember. However, with expectations high, in striving to make Christmas an idyllic and memorable experience, some separated parents understandably find themselves struggling to find common ground and to reach decisions which work for them and their children.

As a family law solicitor, in my experience, the month of December is a very busy one. It is a very rewarding experience to help my parent clients to make arrangements for their children over the Christmas holidays. There are so many options available and what works for one family will not work for another.

In June I provided some 'top tips' for separated parents when dealing with summer holiday arrangements. Much of the advice given in that article is relevant here but there are some differences with the Christmas holidays so here are my top tips when discussing Christmas holiday plans for your children:-

1. Plan early

    Start making plans with the other parent as early in the year as possible. In the event that agreement can't be reached between you and legal advice is required then the earlier in the year this is done the better. Making plans the week before Christmas works well for some parents but for others, if there is disagreement then the added pressure of limited time can make a negotiated arrangement even more difficult to achieve.

    2. Be open-minded

      Part of the difficulty with Christmas holiday arrangements is the focus on the accepted wisdom that '25 December' is 'Christmas day'. In reality, and especially from the perspective of young children, that day can be any of your choosing. If your child is spending 25 December with their other parent this year, why not celebrate your Christmas day on 26 or 27 December, or even in the New Year. There aren't many children who wouldn't relish the idea of having more than one Christmas day!

      3. What do the children want?

        The aim is for your child to share a day with you which they will enjoy. It may not be possible or even necessary for children to spend exactly the same amount of time with each parent over the holiday period. However, if the child is old enough then it is likely that they will have some ideas of their own as to how the holiday could work and it is important that you consider their feelings and wishes. Their views might surprise you and give you some ideas as to how this could work well.

        4. Try to have fun

          Sometimes negotiating Christmas holiday arrangements is hard, even more so if extended family members are applying pressure for things to be a certain way. However, what is most important is that your child is happy and feels loved by the adults around them. It is, after all, the 'season to be jolly'. Having turkey and all the trimmings more than once, decorating two trees and opening Christmas presents over more than one day sounds may be a lot of work but it might just be joyful! Try and focus on the positives and think about how your child is feeling – what they want is to have fun and, in helping them to do this, hopefully you will have fun too.

          No matter how you are spending the holidays this year, I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone in the Brodies Family Law Team, to wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas.


          Sarah Lilley