Q: This is my first Christmas as a single parent. Our eight year-old son has lived with me since his dad and I divorced last Spring and he only spends one weekend a month with his dad, who now lives 240 miles away. I assumed that our son would be with me for Christmas as access weekend is mid-month. Also, if he is not here I will be on my own. However, his father has been really difficult about it and says next year he is having him to stay and I can do nothing to stop him. Surely he can’t just change the access arrangements without a court order?
A: You will no doubt be surprised to learn that there is in fact no provision in law for Christmas contact arrangements. Even in cases where an absent parent has very little contact with a child, the unwritten rule is that Christmas holidays are split or shared between both parents. Parents are encouraged to reach an amicable agreement about Christmas arrangements and the court will only intervene if this proves to be an absolute impossibility.
Realistically there are only three options for Christmas contact: (1) the child spends Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other parent; (2) the child spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning with one parent and Christmas Day afternoon and Boxing Day with the other parent; (3) the child spends the whole Christmas period with one parent one year and the other parent the following year.
Clearly if your ex-husband lives 140 miles away, option 3 is probably the most feasible in your case. If your ex and your son have a good relationship it is likely he will want to see his dad, so you should try to put his best interests before your own.