For a lot of people, Christmas is about spending time with family, but what happens when children have more than one? If not handled carefully, talk of Christmas can descend into conflict and arguments about where children spend the festive season.
Top Tips For Child Arrangements Over Christmas:
- Plan Ahead. Discussions should be had as soon as possible. That way, if there is disagreement, there is time to resolve it.
- Child First. A good way for parents to try and reach an agreement, and overcome the desire to spend as much time as possible with their children, is to focus on what the child needs or wants.
- Compromise. It is always best if parents, who know their children and what is best for them, can find a solution between themselves.
- No Point-Scoring. Parents shouldn’t try and outdo each other, either in terms of time presents.
- Keep Records. Arrangements are best confirmed in writing, (an email conversation will suffice) so there is a clear record of what has been agreed.
If you need help
If they cannot agree, a lot of parents find benefits in using Mediation. This is where an independent, neutral third party assists in discussing and negotiating through a situation.
The process is voluntary and a Mediator cannot make a binding decision, but if parties can reach a solution a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ can be drawn up to record what parties have agreed to. In certain circumstances this be drawn up in to a Court Order, but only if it is deemed of benefit to the child.
There are alternatives to Mediation. Collaborative Law is where parties sit around a table (or in different rooms if they don’t want to meet face-to-face) and engage in negotiations with the support of their solicitors providing legal advice. This too is a voluntary process and any decision is not legally binding.
A couple can also choose to undertake Arbitration where the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding on both parties. The parties jointly agree an arbitrator, (a professionally trained and qualified expert who effectively performs the role of the Judge) prepares paper evidence and the arbitrator then hears from each party before making a decision. Arbitration is often a very effective way of resolving a dispute where the issues are limited or narrow, such as arrangements for Christmas.
If a matter comes before the court, the decision will always be based on what is in the best interests of the child. As required under Section 1(1) Children Act 1989, the welfare of any child is always the court’s paramount consideration. There is no set formula that the court will apply when deciding Christmas arrangements - for some splitting Christmas Day is deemed best, whereas for others alternative Christmas Days could be preferred.
When deciding what is best for the child the court will apply ‘The Welfare Checklist’ that sets out some of the key considerations;
- The wishes and feelings of the child in light of their age and understanding;
- The physical, education and emotional needs of the child;
- The likely effect on the change of any change in their circumstances;
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characterises the court considers relevant;
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person to whom the court considers relevant is in meeting the child’s needs;
- The range of powers available to the court.
If you want advice about Christmas, or any child contact then contact one of our experienced family law team on 01962 844333 or firstname.lastname@example.org