Family & Divorce
Making arrangements for your children over the festive period
If, as parents, you make the difficult decision to separate then of course one of the first considerations is how this will impact your children.
In the initial stages the bigger decisions such as living arrangements, contact and shared care are commonly agreed quite quickly.
You may decide these arrangements between yourselves under a private agreement, you may prepare a parenting plan, or go through family mediation. Some families utilise the Court procedure and submit a Consent Order or attend court hearings for greater assistance if they struggle to reach agreement between themselves.
However matters are resolved it is imperative that not only are the practical living arrangements considered, but also arrangements for school holidays, special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and any other family occasions.
We are very often consulted by parents who have the basic arrangements agreed, and then realise that Christmas is approaching and there is no agreed variation to the current schedule. A parent may at some stage wish to take the children on holiday or change the usual arrangements for a family occasion and this can lead to a miscommunication or issues between the parents. Having these arrangements in mind at the outset can avoid potential issues later.
If a Child Arrangements Order is made by consent or through the Court then this will be legally binding. As such it is very important that the terms of that Order are clear in all respects. There is quite often a “term time” schedule, then agreed arrangements for school holidays. Most school holidays can be shared by way of time frame i.e., 50/50. Many parents like to alternate dates over the Christmas period to ensure that each parent has Christmas day on alternate years for example. The more specific these arrangements the less likelihood of miscommunication going forward. Under a Court Order you will not be able to vary the terms unless this is agreed with the other parent.
If there is not a Court Order then the arrangements can be more flexible, but most parents will benefit from having some form of parenting plan. You should consider within the early stages of separation whether your family requires the formality of a court order if you feel that a more flexible arrangement will suit your family dynamics. Every family is different.
It will be helpful to note in the parenting plan the agreement that you have reached for Christmas and other special occasions. You can consider the notice that would need to be given to the other parent should one of you wish to change any dates. It would not usually be expected that dates and times are changed on a regular basis, a reason may be for a family wedding or celebration for example and in that respect sufficient notice periods can be agreed.
Jessica Thrower, a Senior Associate Solicitor and Mediator in our family team, said:
“Most issues that we see as family solicitors and mediators stem from lack of communication between parents. It is very imperative that separated parents prioritize open communication when making decisions for the benefit of their children. If there are difficulties, then seek advice as to your options and ensure that your family has arrangements in place for the holiday season and beyond.”