Navigating the festive season as separated parents can be challenging and emotionally charged.

At this time of year, many families struggle to put aside their differences and work together. However, some are able to make arrangements themselves to make sure that children can enjoy the season with both parents.

Agreeing child arrangements for the festive period as a family is usually better than involving lawyers, but some people will always need a little bit of assistance. This article suggests some approaches for families who celebrate Christmas. Similar approaches may be applied to other major religious holidays. In the context of Christmas, the following issues might need to be addressed by separated parents:

  • The arrangements for Christmas Eve / Christmas Day / Boxing Day / New Year
  • Arrangements to see wider family and grandparents
  • Changeovers and timings
  • Trips away and holidays abroad
  • Children seeing new partners

Forward planning and open lines of communication with the other parent are important when working to organise Christmas for children. The sooner that separated parents can address these matters, the better for the children and the wider family. Leaving decisions to the last minute can make it more difficult and can lead to disappointment.

Unless you are spending Christmas together, your children cannot spend time with both of you.

There may need to be a level of compromise, so what are the options?

  • Split the holidays in two, which will usually mean that the children spend Christmas with one parent and New Year’s Eve with the other. This can be alternated each year going forward.
  • The children can spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, and then change over at lunchtime on Christmas Day. The children then spend the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the other parent. This can also be alternated each year.
  • Arrange to have two Christmas days, one with each parent.

Regardless of whether or not you and your former spouse or partner are on good terms, taking time to plan your children’s festive holidays gives you both time to come to a mutual decision about what is best. If parents can keep holiday arrangements amicable, they may also be able to select Christmas presents together for their children. At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all arrangement and it is also likely you will have to factor in how extended family from both sides and other siblings can be brought into consideration over Christmas.

If you cannot agree on the arrangements for Christmas, asking lawyers for assistance or attending mediation may help. You can also apply to the Court for an order to cover the Christmas arrangements. Basically, the Court will make the decisions about the Christmas arrangements for the family and the children’s welfare will be the Court’s primary consideration when making those decisions.

Many families successfully establish arrangements that prioritise the welfare of their children during Christmas. Help is there if you cannot agree, but with some communication, parents should be able to find an amicable resolution for the holidays.

This article originally appeared in The Royal Gazette.

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