Christmas and the New Year can be a boom time for family lawyers. Before Christmas, clients come to you to sort out their child contact arrangements over the holidays, over Christmas they seek protection from domestic violence and after Christmas they want a divorce.
If you think that all of that sounds somewhat cynical (coming, as it does, from someone who did this work for more than twenty-five years), you would be wrong. Unfortunately, it is all too true.
I’m afraid I can’t give you much advice about how to avoid domestic violence or the breakdown of your marriage, but I can at least give you a little last-minute advice to help you sort out child contact arrangements.
It never ceased to amaze me how much clients were prepared to spend on legal fees to get the contact that they wanted with their children over Christmas. All too often, though, emotions got in the way of common sense. For example, ask yourself whether it really matters to your children if they open all of their presents on Christmas day – many children are only too happy to celebrate Christmas twice, once with each parent.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how much time children should spend with each parent over the Christmas holidays, or as to how any dispute over arrangements should be resolved. The best single piece of advice I can give is be flexible – neither parent has a right to have the children with them on any particular day. So, for example, the parent with whom the children primarily live should not insist that just because of that fact, the children must stay with them on Christmas day as well. Instead, how about alternating Christmas Day and Boxing Day each year?
And one other thing: don’t try rushing off to the court at the last minute – the court will not usually consider Christmas contact arrangements to be sufficiently important to deal with your case as an emergency, no matter how much importance you attach to it. Accordingly, you won’t get your case heard until well into the New Year.