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Who gets the kids on Christmas Day?

Organising your calendar around special days and school holidays can be tricky at the best of times, but when you add in negotiating child arrangements with your ex-partner, it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. Our Family lawyer, Carole Hack, reveals her tips on how to make organising the holidays a discussion rather than a battle.

Young child sat by a christmas tree, writing on a packageUnless there are good reasons to the contrary, research has consistently shown that it is important for children of separated parents to retain and nurture their relationship with both of their parents and this means spending time with both parents during their holidays.  If children can enjoy a healthy relationship with both parents, it can help to build up their self-esteem, their academic capabilities, strengthen family bonds, and helps them to develop positive behaviours.

Tips for sorting out child arrangements

  1. Don’t leave arrangements to the last minute. If you can, it is far better to try and agree arrangements for Christmas, Summer Easter, half term holidays, and other special occasions such as Mother’s and Father’s Day, well in advance.  This will give you both time to discuss arrangements without the stress of leaving things until the last minute.  Having a regular pattern helps with this enormously. Everyone knows where they stand. 
  2. Agree the best way to communicate and stick to it. If you can meet up face to face with the other parent to do this, then that is generally best, but many parents find this difficult particularly during the early stages of separation.  If talking face to face is difficult, you can agree to communicate by phone, email or text until things become easier. Keep to the issue. Many also find family mediation is a suitable and cost-effective way of agreeing child arrangements, as a trained mediator will facilitate and keep the conversation on track.
  3. Children first approach. Try and focus on the children’s individual needs and what arrangements can be made to suit them best. Even though the romantic relationship between you has broken down, you both have an extremely important relationship with each other and a responsibility to ensure that your children are able to grow up in a stable and healthy environment, despite the separation of their parents.  It is advisable that both parents commit to ensuring that their children can have a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent.  Children feel secure and cared for when their parents communicate clearly and effectively with each other and are not involved in arguments or disputes between their parents
  4. Don’t forget the importance of time spent with their extended family. Children being able to continue relationships with grandparents and other extended family is also extremely important.  They can provide security, unconditional love, comfort, and support which is particularly beneficial to children during the early period of their parents’ separation.  Grandparents can offer their grandchildren a link to their cultural heritage and family history which is of major importance to children who are trying to struggle with the uncertainty of not living with both their parents under the same roof.
  5. Sometimes there needs to be a compromise. This isn’t easy.  Sometimes separated parents feel that they must argue details of children arrangements because that way they retain control, even if a compromise will have little or no impact on the plans they have put in place.  In reaching a compromise, you are putting the children’s needs at the forefront of your discussions, and it becomes less of a feeling of losing control but more of a joint decision being made for the children’s benefit. 
  6. But the other parent is so unreasonable and sabotages all attempts to ‘do it right’. We know this is exhausting and distressing and unfair. However, as Christina McGhee says ‘You can’t always make it better but you can sometimes stop it getting worse.’ The other parent might be unreliable, flaky or lack insight into their children’s needs, but they are the best other parent your child has. Can you ‘take the bullet for your child’ and do what is needed so they feel loved by both of you? This is hard and you may need support to do it. We can help you parent after parting by recommending reading and workshops to help you keep to the high road.

And remember… In discussions it is important to keep whatever feelings you have about each other separate, although in a difficult break up this is easier said than done.   And again, quoting Christina ‘if you meet fire with fire, it will be your child who gets burned’

How we can help

Unsure where to start? Book a fixed fee first meeting with one of the team. Our family team can advise you on how best to approach these discussions to avoid the situation escalating. Of course, we can also tell you where you stand legally but we will also help you avoid getting to the point where you must assert this in court if this is at all possible. This meeting is followed by a letter confirming our advice in writing. 

If an agreement cannot be reached through all the communication methods we have available, or during mediation, it may be necessary to make an application to court for a child arrangements order.  This means that a family court can determine what arrangements are considered best for you and your children. Our team of specialist family lawyers can represent you in court and support you throughout the process.

Photo of family lawyer Carole Hack

About Carole Hack

Carole Hack is a family lawyer based in Crystal Palace. She has extensive experience with private children law matters including child arrangements, parental responsibility, and appointing a guardian. If you would like to book a fixed fee meeting with Carole, please call us on 020 8771 5254 or email Carole through her profile page.


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