Family Law Christmas Survival Guide – What to do and what to avoid as a separated family

18-December-2017 Family Law By Simone Green

Christmas can be a very hard time of year for separated families and especially the children. When negotiating arrangements for who will see the Children over Christmas, Accredited Specialist in Family Law, Simone Green recommends you consider the following:

  1. The world will not end if the children do not see both parents on Christmas Day. It may be best to allow the children to spend Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other, allowing the children to enjoy time with both sides of the family without feeling rushed. This is particularly important if seeing both parents would cause the children to spend a significant amount of time travelling between households. A common solution is to alternate the year in which the child spends Christmas or Christmas Eve with each parent.
  2. Changeover should be stress free – do not fight in front of the children. Exposure to conflict has lasting effects on children and can damage the relationship between a child and their parent. If you believe that it likely that the other parent will become verbally or physically abusive to you when delivering or collecting the children then you must consider safe alternatives such as having a trusted friend or relative assist with changeover, or depending on the age of the children allowing them to enter their parent’s property and you remaining on the kerb.
  3. Do not prevent a child contacting the other parent. It is important for children to have a meaningful relationship with both of the parents where at all possible. If your child wants to call their mother or father in their time with you, use your discretion as to whether timing is appropriate but otherwise you should encourage regular contact especially if the child expresses the wish.
  4. Communicate and be flexible. Keeping an open communication with the other parent is best for the children as long as that communication is respectful. You should try to provide information to the other parent on anything to do with the children that is relevant to the other parent’s time with the children or regarding the children’s activities, schooling, health or wellbeing. Also if changes need to be made to arrangements from time to time, try to accommodate if possible provided enough notice is given.
  5. Allow your child to take items of comfort between homes. Particularly for young children, having favourite and familiar items with them can assist them to settle in the other parent’s home, such as teddy bears, blankets, or favourite toys, provided that there is a clear understanding between the parents that these items travel with the child and if something is left behind and the child becomes distressed, how that item will be delivered back.
  6. Where problems arise, consider mediation as a first option. Unhelpfully many services including legal services close over the Christmas and New Year period. Unless there are very urgent circumstances or there is a significant risk of harm (in which case you can contact the police), you should contact a mediation service in the New Year to arrange for Family Dispute Resolution.
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