For most people, the mention of Christmas in September can seem premature, however for separated parents it is important to consider Christmas arrangements early in order to reach an agreement about spending time with their children over the festive period.
Parents who have an informal contact arrangement can agree this between themselves, however where there is disagreement about child contact over the festive period, parents may find themselves needing the assistance of a family solicitor.
In the absence of a court order, it is not unlawful for a resident parent to refuse contact between the non-resident parent and the child, which can be a source of conflict for previously cooperative parents when trying to establish an agreement for contact over the Christmas period.
If parents find themselves in the situation where they are unable to agree Christmas arrangements, they can use mediation services whereby a professional and independent mediator will try and help the parties reach an agreement. We typically find parents choose to alternate Christmas Day and Boxing Day each year, and this is most likely what a court would order, however blended families often come up with whatever arrangement works for them and most importantly the children, so it is fine to be creative with arrangements.
If the parents are still unable to reach an agreement or mediation is not suitable, then they may wish to instruct a family solicitor to assist in reaching an agreement with the other party, or even make a court application on their behalf to have contact arrangements contained within a court order. Court applications would need to be applied for as early as possible due to the current family court delays. Family courts close over the Christmas period, and an application for child contact is unlikely to be treated as an urgent application by the court in most circumstances.
If parents already have a court order regarding contact in place, it is likely that holiday arrangements are contained within it. If they are not, then the parties should adhere to the contact schedule as detailed within the order.
We would suggest trying to establish Christmas arrangements as far in advance as possible in order to resolve any conflict. If you do need any advice or assistance in resolving matters, please contact one of our Family solicitors.