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How to make Christmas child arrangements following your separation [Updated 2021]

Managing Director Rita Gupta looks at the emotions and logistics involved in successful co-parenting during the festive season, and how planning in advance can help you enjoy the holidays without worry.

2021 hasn’t turned out the way many of us may have hoped, and COVID is still very much with us. For newly-single parents who have divorced or separated during 2021, this first Christmas as a family apart will inevitably be very different from last year’s bubble meet-ups too.

With some requirements reintroduced as we approach Christmas period, there is still a degree of uncertainty as to whether further rules will be imposed before Christmas.

That uncertainty underpins the need to make formal arrangements for children over the holiday period, including which parent they will spend each day of the holiday with. These arrangements should also include a robust Plan B to cover possible scenarios such as:

  • a case of COVID in the immediate family
  • a requirement to self-isolate after contact with a person with the Omicron variant
  • protecting vulnerable family members if required
  • agreements over lateral flow tests for children before changing households

 

Christmas child arrangements and your family

Now is the time for separated parents to plan their Christmas child arrangements for the statutory holiday period, covering both the weekday Bank Holidays in between Christmas and New Year, pus New Year’s Day.

In addition, separated parents should also make arrangements for the rest of the school holidays, and check exactly when they end. In West Berkshire, for example, schools return on Wednesday 5th January, whereas in Hampshire. schools restart on Tuesday 4th January 2022.

 

What separated parents are concerned about at Christmas

The good news is, if you find all this a little daunting, you are not alone. Most newly-single parents share three main concerns:

As a separated parent, it’s important to take time to consider what you feel about all these three points and which are your priorities.

In addition, give the possibility of increased viral transmission in enclosed spaces, you may want to think about:

  • Number of people/households in your home at one time
  • Priorities in terms of who you want to visit and when
  • Availability of local testing, just in case
  • Possibility that one parent, grandparent or one child may need to self-isolate

The key is to lay out your plans now that cover most eventualities, so you can be flexible if required.

Who gets the kids? Christmas Day arrangements

Most resident parents want their children to spend Christmas Day at their home - and the absent parent wants exactly the same thing too. As a newly-separated parent, you may be deciding between two options:

  • Alternating who has the children on the day itself, one year with their resident parent, the next year with their absent parent
  • Sharing the day, each having the children for half the day

Whilst for some, sharing the day works out just fine, for other recently separated couple the ‘this year, next year’ option is the better of the two. Many single parents simply do not want to see their ex-partner on Christmas Day itself, as it can raise so many unwanted emotions.

 

Can I afford Christmas?

Or more often, can I afford to spend as much as my ex probably will? This is an issues that many separated parents worry about, especially if they don’t earn as much as their ex-partner. The current economic climate may also have adversely affected one parent more than the other. Purchasing a joint present given from both of you is both budget-friendly and a positive display of co-parenting that sets the trend moving forward. A modest budget for stocking gifts and treats can also prevent costs spiraling out of control, or devaluing the joint gift.

 

I want to see them open their presents

If there is one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that we are all so much more comfortable with video calls. So, make the most of this, and share in those magical paper-ripping moments via a pre-arranged video call. Make sure this includes all the family including grandparents and extended family. With video calls, there are no worries over the number of people physically allowed in one home, and you can open your presents from the kids on the same call too.

 

How to make your Christmas child arrangements

Making and agreeing Christmas child arrangements doesn’t need to involve endless phone calls, text messages, and email ping pong. This communication overload can be emotionally draining and with so many different messaging formats, lead to potential misunderstanding.

Much simpler to create a Christmas child arrangement letter, which sets down in writing what the arrangements are. Created with the help of a family lawyer such as ourselves, this letter simply pins down the details so you both know what’s happening when and where. Both of you can then agree to it, saving time and stress.

 

Make time for yourself

Remember, your first separated Christmas is not all about the children. This year, make space in your diary to enjoy the things you love about the season. Meet up with friends either virtually or in person as allowed, take a couple of days away, or just relax at home in peace and quiet. Start new traditions for yourself and your children for future Christmases when COVID-19 will have become a distant memory.

Contact LGFL to create and finalise your Christmas child arrangement letter: