It is the time of year that all family lawyers dread! December means Christmas and Christmas means Children and time they are to spend with either parent.
I suppose the main reason such an enquiry or telephone call sends despair into the heart of me, is because I remember being a child, and I remember what spending time with both parents meant to me at this special time of year. As an adult it is also a very special time of year.
ALL parents want to see that look on their children’s faces when they realise that “He’s been”. Whether the children live with them through the week or at weekends for the rest of the year, that very rarely goes away.
The main reason I fear such a case is that usually, unless the resident parent is agreeable to such a request, the enquiry has been made too late in the year and therefore the outcome can be negative as far as the client is concerned. If such enquiries were made in August/September and negotiation and mediation have broken down it may leave time to apply to the Court and ask the Court to make a decision.
WITH WHICH PARENT SHOULD THE CHILDREN STAY WITH ON CHRISTMAS EVE?
Many people (including some family Judges) believe that children should wake up on Christmas morning where they stay most of the time as this is where they believe Father Christmas will bring their presents. I have to say that this argument is a convincing one, but does the big man not also visit Grandma’s house and Uncle Dave’s house? That is what I was always told.
Others argue that Christmas day should be shared and alternated each year so both parents and children can enjoy the best of both worlds. This arrangement is a good one, provided the parents are relatively amicable. Christmas can be a stressful and emotional time and is often accompanied by alcoholic drinks and the last thing any child needs is to witness an argument between their parents as they are ‘handed over’.
Other parents agree that the non resident parent should have a completely separate Christmas (often on Boxing Day). This arrangement works for many families.
The main thing to remember is that the children are happy. What works for some families and children might not work for others. This is why parents should strive to agree arrangements by way of discussion, mediation or even lawyer negotiation. If the disagreement continues all the way to a Final hearing at a family Court, parents often do not realise that the decision making power is handed over in its entirety to complete strangers who have no idea about what is best for their particular family makeup. Any of the above, a mixture of the three or something entirely different could be ordered and the children may not like it!
The best thing for all separated parents is to work together where possible to ensure their kids are happy.
If you really are at an impasse about child arrangements at Christmas, and are having difficulty resolving the issue, speak to us and see whether there are any solutions which we can find, which will work for everyone at this time of year.
Have a lovely Christmas and a prosperous new year.