On your own at Christmas for the first time and trying to work out who has the kids and when? In the second of our 2023 blogs on Christmas child arrangements, Managing Director Rita Gupta explains how successful co-parenting involves planning in advance, to help you and your family enjoy the Christmas holidays with less stress and more certainty.
For newly single parents who have divorced or separated during 2023, their first Christmas as a family apart will be a whole new experience. In additional to the emotional upset many will feel, no UK family will be immune to the continued pressure of the cost-of-living crises either. It can all add up to a lot of uncertainty and pressure at a time when a newly separated family really need some stability and reassurance.
Making child arrangements isn’t just about Christmas Day itself. Child arrangements need to be made across the whole of the holiday period and include an agreement over which parent your children will spend each day of their holiday with. Making practical plans now is important so all the family know what is happening when, and at which location.
What are child arrangements?
Whether you are newly divorced or separated, you need to work out between you a timetable of who will look after the children, when and where. Unlike a Child Arrangement Order from a court, a child arrangement letter clarifies arrangements for a specific time period, such as the Christmas school holiday period. The aim is that both parents agree on arrangements in advance, so everyone can plan accordingly including:
- Close and extended family
- Your employers
Reaching such an agreement can be a lot harder work that it sounds, especially if you are not on good terms with your ex-partner. Making Christmas child arrangements can often 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. This is why a child arrangement letter is so important whether you get on well with your ex-partner or not.
Why create a Christmas child arrangement letter
A Christmas child arrangement letter simply sets down in writing what the arrangements are for the entire holiday period. Created with the help of a family lawyer such as ourselves, this letter simply lays out the details so you both know what’s happening when and where. Both of you can then agree to it, and sign it, saving time and stress.
Need a child arrangement letter for Christmas 2023?
Contact us soonest so we can have this in place in time for the end of term.
School holidays child arrangements and your family
The 2024 Christmas school holidays always include the weekday Bank Holidays in between Christmas and New Year, plus New Year’s Day. For the autumn term 2023, the local authorities near our family law firm here in Reading - Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey - have set two different end of term dates:
- Hampshire schools: Friday 15th December 2023
- Surrey schools: Friday 15th December 2023
- Berkshire schools : Wednesday 20th December 2023
- Private schools: week starting Monday 11th December 2023
If your child attends a private school, make sure your arrangements cover the entire holiday period, and ask now for support from grandparents and others if required. Both sets of grandparents may welcome the chance to have the children, but the more notice you can give them, the better.
Taking the children abroad for Christmas 2023 and New Year 2024
If you want to take your children abroad during the school Christmas holidays, whether for a holiday or to visit relatives, you will usually need the permission of all those with co-parenting responsibilities. See our first blog in this series “Santa, sunshine and skiing” for more details.
What separated parents are concerned about at Christmas
Most newly-single parents share three main concerns:
- Who will the children spend Christmas Day with?
- How much can I afford to spend on Christmas?
- I really want to be there when the kids open their presents
As a separated parent, it’s important to take time to consider what you feel about all these three concerns and which are your priorities.
1. 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 recently-separated parent, you may be considering two different options:
- Alternating who has the children on the day itself, such as 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 can prove to be the better of the two. Many recently-separated parents simply do not want to see their ex-partner on Christmas Day itself, as it can raise so many unwanted emotions. Equally, your children may not want to leave one parent halfway through the celebrations (or lunch) to head off to the other parent, with the emotional wrench that might involve.
There is also the major consideration of time spent travelling - and the cost too. No child really wants to spend hours in the car on Christmas Day travelling miles from one house to another when they could be playing with their presents. Apart from the unknowns of traffic, weather conditions and a possibly stressed-out parent at the wheel, there is also the cost. With the current price of fuel, a Christmas Day dash could cost considerably more than just time. There is also the thorny issue of which parent will make the journey and therefore cannot have a glass of wine or a beer with their Christmas lunch.
2. Can I afford Christmas?
Many parents will be concerned that they can’t afford their usual Christmas now they are separated and living apart. The current economic climate and rising cost of renting a home may have adversely affected one parent more than the other.
There is also the additional nagging concern that they also can’t afford to spend as much as their ex can. This is an issue that many separated parents worry about, especially if they don’t earn as much as their ex-partner.
Remember, Christmas is not a competition. Money spent does not equate to love given. Purchasing a joint present 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 spiralling out of control, or devaluing the joint gift.
3. I want to see the children open their presents
These days, we can easily make low-cost or free video calls on almost any device including phone, tablets and laptops. Make the most of this, and if the children are with their other parent, share in those magical paper-ripping moments via a pre-arranged video call. With video calls, there are no worries over people travelling long distances, and you can all open your presents from the kids on the same call too. So make sure this call includes all the family including grandparents and extended family.
Don’t get into debt for just a day
We know the pressure on separated parents to compensate for their split with an extra-lavish Christmas can feel overwhelming. However, it is only one day in your children’s lives. In 2024, there will be 365 other days to spend with them, enjoying being together and having fun, as 2024 is a leap year. It is far better to budget and have money to spend in 2024 than to put yourself into debt for months.
As consumer champion Martin Lewis said:
“People have a perfect Christmas in their mind and then work towards achieving it. Decide how much you are going to spend on Christmas this year and stick to it. Christmas is one day, we don’t want you to be indebted in the New Year.”
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, 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 to come.
Need a child arrangement letter?
Contact us at LGFL. We will create your Christmas child arrangement letter and finalise arrangements. So you can relax and plan your celebrations with certainly and clarity.