Christmas 2021 – Child Arrangements

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For most, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but for some it is particularly stressful in the wake of an acrimonious separation or with ongoing issues arising in respect of Child Arrangements and how much time is spent with each parent over the festive period.

How to reach an agreement for the festive period:

  1. It is best to start your discussions with your ex-partner as early as possible.
  2. Get your diaries out to assist with planning child arrangements. A visual representation can help avoid any misunderstandings.
  3. Remember that the children’s needs are the priority. They will be happy to have two Christmas Days whether that happens on the 25th or not. They often will have no concept of the date.
  4. Listen to each other’s proposals. Compromise is often essential.
  5. If you are having supported or supervised contact in a contact centre you may need to rearrange your dates subject to their opening times.
  6. Have a Plan B. With the added complexities of Covid 19 and the new Omicron variant, there is a level of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming weeks. Be willing to accept that your agreed plans may need to be changed at the last minute.
  7. Communicate with each other. If you do not feel comfortable communicating with each other directly or there are court orders prohibiting you from doing so then you should liaise through solicitors or a mutual third party. There are also useful Apps such as Our Family Wizard or The Talking Parents App.
  8. Write your agreed plan out so that that you are both clear on the arrangements as this will help to avoid confusion or disputes.

If you cannot reach agreement, you can consider the following:

  1. Mediation
    A mediator can help you and your ex-partner agree on child arrangements. The mediator is impartial, and the discussions are without prejudice. You should note however that if you do reach an agreement in mediation, it is not legally binding.

  1. Solicitor
    Contact your solicitor to help you. We can provide you with advice and assist you in reaching an agreement.

  1. Collaborative approach
    If you and your ex-partner both have solicitors, both you and your solicitors can have a “round the table” meeting with a view to reaching settlement. You could also consider Hybrid mediation with your solicitors present.

  1. Court
    As a last resort, and in emergency situations, you can apply to the court for the judge to make a Child Arrangements Order. The court will consider the “Welfare Checklist” which is set out below.

Welfare Checklist:

  1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  2. his physical, emotional and educational needs;
  3. the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
  4. his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
  5. any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  6. how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
  7. the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

You must remember that if you have a court order in place already you must stick to the terms. If you however have welfare concerns for your child(ren), then you should contact a solicitor to seek further advise.

Speak to our Family Law Experts

Prabhleen Kundhi is a solicitor in the family team and regularly advises on the above issues. She can be contacted on Prabhleen.kundhi@ibblaw.co.uk or 01895207854.