Planning your child arrangements for Christmas 2016

Christmas is fast approaching, and if you are a divorced or separated parent, now is the time to sort out your children’s holiday arrangements with your ex.
Being organised gives you time to plan and prepare, and to give your children the security and stability of knowing which parent they will be with and when, over the Christmas period.
Emotions tend to run high over Christmas, so it is always advisable to make the process of agreeing arrangements as calm and collected as possible. If your ex has child access or regular contact, you will need to mutually agree arrangements. If relations are strained, this can be increasingly difficult and stressful as December moves on.


mother and childrenMaking arrangements by letter

At LGFL, we can arrange and agree child arrangements by letter, formalising the decisions made and minimising the level of contact required between you and your ex. It is efficient, impartial and ‘official’, and for many of our single parent clients, it’s an essential element of their Christmas planning.



Alternating and splitting Christmas

Every family has their own way of arranging Christmas, whether alternating where the children spend Christmas Day, splitting the day itself between two homes, or having two Christmases – always popular with younger children!


Children may prefer to spend Christmas in their usual family home, close to their friends, and where at least one set of relations can visit without pressure. They can then move to the other parent’s home and have Christmas all over again, with the fun of a second set of presents and relations to enjoy.


There is no right or wrong with Christmas arrangements. When we are discussing arrangement letters with clients, each case has to be decided on the particular circumstances and what is in the best interests of the children’s welfare.



Spending Christmas abroad

If you or your ex wish to take the children abroad over the Christmas holidays, the same rules apply as for summer holidays. As part of shared parental responsibility, you should inform your ex of your intent to take the children abroad, and your ex must agree to this. If you remove children from the country without the other parent’s permission, this is legally child abduction.


This also applies if you are an ex-pat and live and/or work abroad. If you wish the children to come to you for some or all of the holidays, you must get permission from your ex. We strongly suggest this permission is put in writing if you are collecting the children in person and taking them from the UK to your normal country of residence, especially if your children no longer share your surname.



Holiday specific issue orders

If your ex does not agree to your children being taken abroad, you can apply for a specific issue order. This is a court order that decides if the proposed holiday or visit to relations abroad is in the best interest of the children. While it is unlikely that the court would rule against a skiing trip or a visit to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention, it may decide that other countries and locations are not deemed safe, or that there is a risk of the children not being returned.


Again, LGFL can help with the arrangements needed to ensure that your Christmas holiday or trip abroad is formally agreed and above board.



How do other divorced parents ‘do’ Christmas?

In 2014, Simpson Millar commissioned a survey of 1000 divorced and separated parents to find out how they arranged their Christmas celebrations.

  • A surprising 25% of divorced parents spent Christmas Day back together, with the children.
  • 27% chose to take it in turns to have the children on Christmas Day.
  • 11% of children enjoyed two Christmas Days, one with each parent.

Perhaps most interestingly, only 13% of those surveyed actually asked their kids whom they wanted to be with at Christmas. Confusingly, 66% also said that their children’s opinions were significant when dividing time spent with the parents. (That’s surveys for you!).



Non-custody parenting over Christmas

If your children do not live with you in your home as their main residence, you are much less likely to see them on Christmas Day. The survey revealed that just 1% of parents said their children spent Christmas with the parent who saw them less.


So, if you do not have regular contact with your children, and want them to be with you over the Christmas period, now is the time to contact your ex and get the process started. UK courts always see a last minute rush for child arrangement or other court orders from parents who cannot agree. Some simply leave it too late to even get a court hearing. Of the divorced parents surveyed by Simpson Millar, 24% said that waiting until December to make arrangements was already ‘cutting it fine’, and 8% made no arrangements at all.



Need help with settling your child arrangements this Christmas?

Call us, and we’ll write a letter that lays out exactly what you propose. We’ll also manage the correspondence (with your input), so an agreement can be reached with your ex quickly and smoothly. Call us and we’ll help get Christmas sorted!