Christmas is just two months away and it is important to plan ahead. This is especially true for separated families, where arrangements need to be made to address what plans will be put in place in respect of the child arrangements over the festive period to ensure your children spend quality time with both of their parents. Planning ahead is essential to avoid any unnecessary distress and conflict over the Christmas period.
Any delay in resolving the child arrangements is likely to exacerbate any dispute, not only putting additional pressure on you as parents trying to resolve matters but can also result in children being caught in the middle of any dispute.
If you are unable to resolve matters with your ex-partner via direct discussion, then there are a number of alternative options available including solicitor-led negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and ultimately a Court application.
A Court application should be seen as a last resort as there are often no winners in a Court room, with a Judge determining how your children will spend their time over the Christmas period.
The Court will consider what is in the best interest of your children, with reference to the welfare checklist at s1(3) of the Children Act 1989 which provides:
- the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding);
- his/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
- the likely effect on him/her of any change in his/her circumstances;
- his/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her which the court considers relevant;
- any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- how capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs;
- the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
If an application to the Court is necessary, prompt action needs to be taken to ensure that there is judicial time for any such application to be heard by a Judge as the Court list fills up quickly in the weeks leading up to the Christmas period. Further mediation is a prerequisite to an application being made to the Court and it is important to factor in time for this process to take place.
Unless there is good reason, the Court will expect your children to spend time with both of their parents over the Christmas period and often an alternating arrangement is put in place i.e. Christmas Day with one parent in year 1 and Boxing Day with that parent in year 2.
If you would like to discuss the arrangements for your children over the festive period, then please do not hesitate to contact us.