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All I want for Christmas is you…

As the twinkle of fairy lights begin to brighten the dark winter nights, the excitement of a fast-approaching Christmas is building.  After what has undoubtedly been another financially challenging year for families across the board, arranging quality time with your children over the Christmas period is likely to be a top priority.  It is fair to say that sometimes, special occasions such as Christmas can create tensions within separated families as reaching agreements about how time with your children is to be shared may be an emotive issue.

Let’s consider how you might want to divide up the time at Christmas and how you might address this. There is no “one size fits all” rule for Christmas arrangements and what works for your family may not work for another.   There may need to be compromises on both sides to ensure your children are able to enjoy Christmas with both sides of the family.  If you are struggling, here are four top tips which might help:

  1. Prioritise the children – Christmas is primarily a time for children. Try to put aside any lingering disputes and consider what would be best for the children during the festive period.  Focusing on the children provides common ground and reminds everyone of what is most important. 
  2. Be flexible – the needs of your children and your families will inevitably change from year to year. What might be right for this Christmas may not be what has been right in previous years, so don’t be afraid to try arrangements which are a little different than you might previously have had in place.  For example, splitting Christmas Day may have worked well in the past, but now may feel overly onerous for your children. Equally, the opposite may be true and your children may express a view about sharing Christmas day in a way they have not before.  Don’t be scared to try to agree a new approach and remember that there is scope to change again next year if it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped.
  3. Look at the big picture – try viewing this entire holiday as “Christmas Time” instead of focusing on a singular day. Don’t forget about the additional days either side of Christmas Day, as this can be fantastic family time. Perhaps spending a longer period of time with your children, albeit slightly after Christmas rather than on the day itself, may actually afford you better quality time over the entire holiday period.
  4. Communicate – if possible, try to have an open conversation with the other parent about Christmas this year. If you are able to reach an agreement, write it down so there is no misunderstanding.  Depending on the age and maturity of your children, you may agree to involve your children in these discussions.  Giving consideration to their views is important, but remember that they should not feel pressure to “pick” one parent over the other.

Having said all of this, we entirely appreciate that reaching an agreement is not always going to be possible.  If you need some help with coming to an agreement, you may want to involve a solicitor.  Balfour+Manson are skilled at helping clients sort out contact arrangements and we understand how tricky these issues can be. We will do our best to provide practical support for you in moving matters forward and are happy to help wherever possible.