The law does not contain any specific provision for Christmas arrangements. The court would recommend that separated parents try to reach an agreement between themselves about who a child should spend Christmas with. The court system should only be used as a last resort.
Where both parents have parental responsibility, the starting point is to try and reach an agreement. To reach an agreement you should ensure you start discussions around the children’s arrangements well in advance of Christmas to ensure you have enough time to reach a solution. If the child is old enough you should also consider their wishes and feelings.
When putting forward your ideal arrangements try to be considerate of the other parent and be fair. You could suggest for example, the child spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning with one parent and Christmas afternoon and Boxing day with the other parent. In the alternative you could suggest alternating years. It may also help to consider other special occasions such as New Year, Halloween, and birthdays. A parent may be more agreeable to your proposals for Christmas arrangements if the child spends another special occasion with them. It is important to put the child first and consider what will allow them to have an enjoyable Christmas.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, you should look at mediation first as a way to reach a solution. Mediation will assist you to reach an outcome. It is a cost-effective way of resolving disputes. The mediator is independent, which means they do not take sides in the discussion. Their aim is to support each party and to hopefully help the parties reach an agreement. They can assist with the communication between the parties and try to focus the parties on reaching an agreed way forward.
If mediation fails, an application for a child arrangements order can be made to the court who will then decide the arrangements for Christmas.Court proceedings are costly and careful consideration should be given before making an application as they should be made as a last resort and where necessary. It is important to note that the courts are extremely busy and an application to deal with Christmas day arrangements will not be seen as urgent and so your application may not be heard until the new year. Alongside this, court proceedings can be very stressful and this may impact of your family’s enjoyment of the Christmas period.