Christmas is traditionally a time for families to come together, however for many separated parents and children it can be a difficult time. However, with some forward planning and cooperation between the parents, these issues can be resolved to ensure that your children can spend quality time with both parents at Christmas.
Here are some tips that may assist:
- Plan in advance - check the school holiday dates well in advance. Don’t leave making the arrangements to the last minute - start considering the arrangements in October by the latest thereby avoiding the stress of the pre-Christmas rush as well as giving you time to deal with any disagreements, particularly if any court application is required.
- Try to communicate amicably with the other parent – put your children’s interests first, they do not wish to see their parents argue. If you find it difficult to speak directly then set out any proposals in a letter or email.
- Make sure the arrangements are fair and consider how long the child can spend with each parent given their work commitments during the holidays. Christmas Day comes around each year so consider alternating Christmas Day and Boxing Day each year so the child can enjoy two Christmas Days! Alternatively you may decide to share Christmas Day. Some parents decide to spend the day together with their children. If you are going to consider this then you need to be sure your relationship is amicable and that the focus remains on the children. Also don’t forget about New Year which again can be alternated.
- Try to ensure that the children also get to spend time with extended family members on both sides of the family.
- Inform the children of any agreed arrangements so that they are aware of when they will be spending time with each parent.
- Children will often write a list of presents they desire. Share this with the other parent and try to agree on which presents each will buy or alternatively buy them together as coming from "Mum & Dad". Also provide a gift and card from the child to give to the other parent.
- If you are unable to come to an agreement with the other parent directly consider family mediation. This involves meeting your former partner with an independent mediator who will try and assist you to negotiate with one another. The advantages are that it can keep matters amicable as well as being relatively quick and cost effective.
- Failing this the last resort would be court proceedings. However, they are time consuming and costly and the outcome can never be guaranteed. Any such applications need to be made well in advance to ensure there is court time available to hear the application.
At the end of the day the focus should be on what is best for the children. Remember this is a special time of year for them. Whatever arrangements are put in place ensure they get to spend reasonable time with both parents.