23rd October 2020
It is always advisable for separated families to plan their Christmas arrangements for children in good time, however, with 2020 being one of the most unpredictable years to date, it is a good idea to plan ahead and start discussing Christmas now.
Whilst there is hope that the ‘rule of 6’ may be relaxed so that larger families can get together around the dinner table for Christmas dinner, with local lockdowns increasing and positive covid tests rising, this may be unlikely.
The current restrictions could make it more difficult to share time with children than in previous years and it is likely that both parents could feel stressed about how they are going to spend the Christmas period.
If you do not already have a rota or agreement on how time at Christmas is divided, then approach the topic calmly and prepare to make reasonable compromises. If both parties are able to have a sensible discussion, then you are more likely to find a solution that pleases all. Consider using a shared calendar (eg Google Calendars) or a parenting app (eg Our Family Wizard or 2 Houses) to establish a schedule so everyone is clear what is happening.
When making any plans that involve your children, then their best interests should be considered the main priority. If you and your ex-partner struggle to agree on plans, then children should not be privy to any heated discussions or arguments. Try not to involve children in conversations around Christmas plans until you have reached an agreement and avoid showing any upset or frustration that could impact them.
Be mindful of the manner of handing children over to their other parent. If the relationship is not an amicable one, then consider how you can make sure the handover does not affect the children negatively. It is best to have all the details confirmed so there is no confusion, be prompt when collecting or dropping off children and be positive and encouraging when saying goodbye.
Often when separated families handover at Christmas there will be various gifts, toys or coats that will go back and forth to separate houses. It is worth being diligent when children have spent time visiting other family members and ensure that children are washing their hands and using sanitiser where possible. You and your ex-partner may have a shared bubble, but at Christmas time the chances of additional households mixing is increased, as is physical contact with extended family members.
If you are having difficulty reaching agreement on contact with your children over Christmas (or at any other time of year) then you may need to instruct a solicitor to help find a way forward.
Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from a one-off fixed fee appointment with a lawyer to understand your options and seek some advice. You may wish to instruct a solicitor to write to your ex-partner if the communication has broken down or you might need to take action and apply for a child arrangement order through the courts.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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