How do I arrange child contact as a separated parent?
Christmas is a magical time of year, especially for those who have children. But for separated parents, it can be a source of anxiety or stress when looking to arrange contact with children over the festive period and, in particular, on Christmas Day. The festive period is a time to be spent with family and, understandably, both parents will wish to spend this time with their children. However, for separated parents, this time will have to be split and an agreement will need to be reached between you and your ex-partner on contact arrangements.
If there is a contact order in place, the first step is to check if the order incorporates contact over the festive period. If you do not have a contact order in place in respect of your child or the order does not make mention of Christmas contact, then it is still possible to arrange this informally and amicably with your ex-partner.
The following information below guides how to do this:
To arrange Christmas contact as a separated parent it is always best to plan. It is never too early to discuss arranging contact over the festive period and the earlier you plan this, the better! This leaves time for negotiation or discussions with your ex-partner about what is realistic, what each parent would like and what is best for the child or children. If you put off arranging this until it is too late, it can make discussions more difficult and it can affect the practicality of arrangements if plans become last-minute.
If possible, it is best to put any agreement in writing to avoid changing plans at a later date. It is important that if an agreement is reached, both parents stick to the terms. However, sometimes change is unavoidable, and another benefit of arranging Christmas contact as early as possible is to allow for unexpected change and further arrangements to be made with your ex-partner – with plenty of time before Santa comes!
An important thing to keep in mind is that both parents deserve to spend quality time over the festive period with the child or children, and an agreement has to be reached that makes provision for enough time for both parents to do so.
Think about the other parent’s preferences and how this matches up with your own. It is inevitable that some compromise, from both parents, will be necessary. Additionally, it is important to think about what the child would like to do – although it should never be put to children to decide who they wish to spend the festive period with, as this puts unnecessary pressure or stress on them by forcing them to choose between their parents.
Communication is key when seeking to make contact arrangements over the festive period. How this is approached is important, as it will be beneficial to keep discussions as amicable as possible. Be open to discussion or negotiation, and place the children’s best interests at the heart of any discussions.
No one size fits all
In terms of what contact looks like over the festive period for separated parents, there are no right or wrong answers. It will be entirely dependent on each party’s circumstances, as well as things such as work schedules, or geographical considerations if parents live far from each other. It is also important to recognise that other days over the festive period, other than Christmas Day itself, may be important to either parent and arrangements can incorporate spending time with children on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
What if an agreement can’t be reached?
Unfortunately, in some situations, separated parents are unable to reach an amicable arrangement on their own. If you are struggling to reach an agreement with your ex-partner around Christmas contact, you can seek the help of one of our experienced family law solicitors.
There are several options available to resolve disputes around Christmas contact. For example, mediation may be beneficial by bringing parties together to resolve the issues with an independent third party. If mediation is unsuccessful, then another option is to raise court proceedings to resolve Christmas contact disputes. Christmas contact can be included in the terms of any contact order. Again, the earlier you can raise the issue of Christmas contact with your ex-partner, the better – you don’t want to leave it too late and risk not reaching a resolution in time for the festive period, especially if court proceedings are necessary.
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