Christmas is a time for families to come together but for the families who have separated, it can be a challenging time. It is always difficult to decide who should spend time with children and when.

In anticipation of the Christmas break we have already seen an increase in the number of enquiries about how to divide time over Christmas. Here at Slater and Gordon we have prepared some top tips to help separated couples manage the festive period:

Compromise is key

Separated couples must be prepared to compromise. Christmas is a magical time where your children should be at the heart of any plans. Think about how they would like to spend their Christmas day.

Do not leave it to the last minute

Plan your arrangements as early as possible. Then if there are any disagreements, there will be time to discuss these amicably and potentially look into other options if matters cannot be resolved.

Consider sharing the day

Some separating parents chose to split Christmas day. This tends to work best when parents live close together. If you do not live nearby then splitting Christmas day may not be in your children’s best interests and it is often considered unfair to expect children to have to travel on Christmas day.

Think about alternating years

If just one parent is going to spend Christmas day with the children, then this should be alternated next year with the other parent so both parents have an opportunity to enjoy Christmas day with the children on alternate years.

Have two Christmases

If you are the parent who does not have the children this Christmas then try and recreate Christmas day on another day such as Boxing day so the children have the benefit of two Christmases.

Be aware of your options

Think about the options available to help you reach an agreement, other than direct negotiations. These could include attending mediation, seeking advice from a family lawyer or ultimately if an agreement really cannot be reached then an application to the court can be made.

Decide if and when an application to the court is necessary

If you do feel you have exhausted all other options and need to make an application to the court, then this application should be made as soon as possible. The courts are very busy and December is one of the busiest months for the courts. Depending on how busy your local court is applications generally take anything from 1–4 months to be heard.

Get advice

Before making an application to the court, it is always sensible to seek specialist advice from a family lawyer.

Enjoy your time with the children

Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy the time you have with the children on whatever day is it.

Take time to reflect

After the Christmas period is over, reflect on what has and has not worked for the children. Parents should then discuss this and works together to ensure any of the same issues are not encountered again.

If you would like specialist advice from a family lawyer then please contact Slater and Gordon on 0808 175 7710 and we’ll be happy to help.

Kelly Willmott, Lawyer in Family Law at Slater and Gordon Tel: 01908 354 171 Email:
Slater and Gordon (UK) LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.