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Making Merry Memories: Navigating Kids' Contact at Christmas for Separated Families

A photo of Judith Wheeler
28th November 2023

Whilst Christmas is meant to be the “most wonderful time of the year”, with the background chaos that the festive period can bring, perhaps you haven’t yet had the opportunity of agreeing with your ex-partner what time your children should spend with you both during this year’s Christmas break.

Whilst every family has a different dynamic and traditions, most will want to spend a considerable amount of time sharing the holidays with family and friends. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are often seen as the “holy grail”, but where children usually spend time between two parent’s homes, there’s no reason why they can’t enjoy two Christmases in both households and possibly, depending upon geography, on different days.

If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place already or if there are ongoing Court proceedings, then it would be usual for there to be an Order or agreed provision for Christmas arrangements.

If there is no Child Arrangements Order in place determining the arrangements for you then, depending upon travel logistics and plans with wider family, hopefully you and your ex-partner can be practical and agree arrangements amicably.

There is no right or wrong arrangement, but typically the usual week to week arrangements are suspended to allow for the Christmas arrangements to take place and might include:

  • Spending Christmas Eve and the first part of Christmas Day with one parent with a handover during Christmas Day so that the rest of the day is spent with the other parent with an overnight stay into Boxing Day.
  • Spending Christmas Eve to Boxing Day with one parent and then spending New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with the other parent. Arrangements can be alternated year to year.

Depending upon how amicable the parents are and their personal circumstances, they might agree to spend some time together over Christmas in one another’s household.

Where it’s not practical to share Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you could consider celebrating with your children on a separate day and replicating Christmas festivities such as having a meal, giving gifts and playing games so that the children can feel that they have celebrated with both parents.

Tips to consider : -

1. Start communicating with the other parent and agree a plan as soon as possible. Express your thoughts and any concerns to the other parent and listen to their perspective to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.

2. Ideally have a written record of what you have both agreed to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

3. Be flexible and be prepared to compromise. Both parents may have different ideas about how to spend Christmas with the children. Try to find a middle ground that allows the children to spend time with both parents.

4. Remain child-focused, consider your child’s views, and envisage the holidays from your children’s perspective. Don’t make the children choose. Remember, the purpose of the arrangements are to ensure that the child has a happy and memorable Christmas.

5. Consider the child’s traditions and preferences and try to accommodate these as much as possible. This will help create a sense of stability and familiarity for the child.

6. Keep the lines of communication open. Once arrangements are agreed, allow yourselves a degree of flexibility whilst also attempting to stick to agreements as much as possible. If plans do need to change, be sure to provide the other parent with as much notice as possible.

Christmas is fast approaching and so if you need advice about reaching an agreement with your ex partner regarding Christmas contact arrangements, then please contact a member of our Family Team at either of our Warwickshire (01926 887700) or Leicestershire (01455 610747) offices for a consultation to discuss your options.