Co-parenting after separation: should you split Christmas Day?

It’s probably one of the biggest issues amongst separated parents with children; who will the kids spend Christmas Day with?

It’s tempting to think that dividing the day between your two homes is the fairest option. However, moving children from one location to another on Christmas Day itself, even just a few miles apart, is fraught with practical and emotional issues that might outweigh the benefits.

Instead, many separated couples decide to alternate who has the children on Christmas Day, and who has them on Boxing Day. It’s an arrangement that eliminates the challenges of you changing location on such a significant day and ultimately allows you all to have more time together.

Your children can relax too, knowing that they will see their other parent tomorrow for a second day of Christmas fun!

To help you decide, LGFL’s Managing Director Rita Gupta shares her “Christmas Day Split Pros and Cons” list for separated parents, grandparents and extended family.





Kids see both parents on Christmas Day. You have to see your ex on Christmas Day…


You both give them their presents on the same day.


Grumpy kids who want to play with presents but can’t because they are at the other house.


Each of you has separate time with the kids.


Competition between parents for “best” part of the day. For example, who gets the morning stockings or afternoon walk?


You each get half the day to yourself / with your new partner.


New partners and family have less time with you. Much of that half day could be spent travelling in between households. Grandparents may feel excluded.


Splitting the day keeps it fair for everyone, every year. Sharing the day gives no ‘wriggle room’ for potential disruption by weather, COVID, etc.


Children are at their resident parent’s home for part of the day. Children can’t see local friends on the day because they haven’t got time.


Positive example of co-parenting if goes smoothly.


Negative example if it ends up with arguments between you two over minor details or late arrivals due to traffic.


You shared the costs and preparation of meals.


You buy and prepare two Christmas dinners for kids who are not hungry or feeling fractious after rushed family meals.


Grandparents can be with the kids in their own adult child’s home. Conflicts of interest for grandparents if they get on well with both of you.


Children get two parts to their Christmas Day.


Children spend too much time travelling in the car and too little time enjoying themselves.


Parents can relax and enjoy a drink or two at lunch. Not if you’ve got the children for the morning and need to get them to their other parent’s home. Could lead to disputes over who does the driving and who does the drinking.


Kids can enjoy the journey between homes.


Only if one or both parents have a car. Public transport doesn’t run on Christmas Day. Taxis will be prohibitively expensive, if available at all.


Kids spend Christmas in the UK. Parents can’t take children away for a break or to visit family abroad over the Christmas holiday.


Christmas and coercive control

Sadly, Christmas can often be used by less cooperative ex-partners as a bargaining chip. Arrangements for the entire period can also be used as a method of coercive control to cause as much upset as possible at an emotional time. Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse in law. If you feel you are being manipulated by an ex-partner after separation, do contact us for advice and to discuss practical ways to prevent this.


Still not sure what to do?

If they are old enough, ask your children. If you include them in making the plans, you already have them onside for the day itself. Discuss this with your ex-partner too; they may not have as strong views on this as you expect, or have other commitments to work around.

Once you’ve decided between you, get that agreement down in writing so it’s (literally) signed and sealed well before Christmas. If you can’t agree, we can draft a Child Arrangement letter that you can both sign up to if required. Your letter should always include a Plan B just in case circumstances change, such as a case of COVID in the family, adverse weather or (heaven forbid) a last-minute lockdown imposed by the government…


Need a child arrangement letter?

Contact us to get Christmas child arrangements settled and agreed well in advance of Santa’s arrival.

- Call us

- Email us

- Send us a message