As a legal practitioner here at Stowe Family Law LLP, specialising particularly in private cases involving children, I am always conscious at this time of the year that the Christmas period can be very difficult for some families: particularly if they are separated and the parents can’t agree on arrangements for their children over the festive season.
Christmas is traditionally a time for families so it’s only natural for parents to want to spend time with their children and enjoy and celebrate the festivities with them. However, for those families in which the parents have separated, resolving disputes over the time each parent gets to spend with the children can be very difficult.
It is an incredibly busy time of year, with all the festive preparations to contend with and of course the inevitable Christmas shows, nativity plays and parties.
There is a great deal to be said for planning well ahead and trying to reach an agreement with the other parent about arrangements over the Christmas period. The earlier this can be done the better given the demands on everyone’s time during these very busy few weeks.
If it becomes clear that an agreement cannot be reached then early action should ensure there is enough time to try and resolve the problems you’re facing by discussion, negotiations, mediation, family counselling or as a last resort an application to court for a child arrangements order under the Children Act 1989.
In many cases when child arrangements break down at the last minute just before Christmas, there just isn’t enough time left for a referral to mediation or counselling with any hope of a satisfactory solution being found before the big day. There may not even be enough time for the courts to hear the matter, no matter how keen the parents may be.
If proceedings are necessary then do remember that the Courts are always very busy and are even more so during the Christmas period. Then there is the Christmas break itself to take into consideration. So the earlier the application to court can be made the better and the more chance there will be of securing a hearing date prior to the Christmas holidays.
Thinking ahead and seeking advice early on will increase your chances of sorting things out and reaching an agreement before Christmas Day, with all its expectations, arrives. If you manage to do so, you’ll have a far more enjoyable time on the 25th.