However, it can be heartbreaking for separated parents and their children. Here are some things that can help
Contact arrangements can be the cause of a lot of conflicts and upset during the Christmas period. One of the questions that our solicitors are most often asked is how children should split their time between parents. Should there be a week-to-week rotation, should there be a day-to-day rotation or should children spend Christmas with one parent and New Year with the other.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question. Family traditions, religious traditions, work arrangements, can all mean that different days hold different significance for families. Therefore, each family will have its own individual circumstances and matters that need to be addressed. There are a number of things that can assist parents.
It is our experience that the sooner that arrangements for contact over Christmas are discussed, the easier it will be to find a resolution without having to seek the assistance of solicitors, or ultimately the Courts. Parents have time to consider different arrangements and alternative plans that may work for them, and more importantly, their children. Parents can get used to the idea that Christmas is going to look a little different from what they would like, or what they are used to.
Communicate without using inflammatory, emotive or negative language
Many parents who have separated can find it troubling to discuss contact arrangements for their children. This is true in any circumstance, but Christmas often adds an additional layer of stress and upset. This is likely because of the significance of the occasion itself, but also it is a busy and expensive period of time.
By doing what you can to take the emotion out of the conversation, parents can focus on the issues at hand. It may be helpful in certain occasions to avoid direct communication and instead use email, instant messaging apps, or co-parenting apps such as WeParent, Cozi or Our Family Wizard. Some of these apps even have a function where they will offer alternatives when language does become negative or inflammatory.
Your Children Come First
When it comes to Children in Scotland, their welfare, happiness and contentment is what the Courts and policymakers consider to be the first and most important consideration. Family lawyers will therefore often encourage parents to have this in the forefront of their minds when thinking about arrangements, not only at Christmas but in all situations and circumstances.
Against this background, parents should not ask or encourage their children to decide. This place children firmly between parents and asks them to choose. This can be unfair, and place children under unnecessary pressure. It can cause feelings of guilt and upset. That being said, the views of children is certainly important. Children should be listened to and encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings.
Think to the Future
While it can be particularly upsetting to think about a Christmas Eve or a Christmas Day without your children, particularly for those with younger children or those parents who are newly separated. However, it is important to remember that Christmas comes around every year. Perhaps an arrangement where parents alternate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will allow for both parents to be able to spend time with their children.
Parents should be prepared to enter into discussion for contact arrangements with an open mind. Parents should be prepared to work together, compromise and be flexible when they can. Separation and divorce is highly emotional and difficult, it therefore causes people to behave emotively and in ways that can be out of character. Approaching discussions with the attitude that you are prepared and willing to compromise can assist.
How can we help?
If parents cannot agree on arrangements for contact across the Christmas period, then we can help. We can assist in a number of ways. For example, we can assist with finding an appropriate Alternative Dispute Resolution method such as mediation or collaboration. Alternatively, we can negotiate on your behalf.
A good family law solicitor will encourage you to put the needs of the children first. Unless there are welfare issues, the children should be spending quality time with both parents.
To ensure that disappointment is avoided, we encourage that arrangements be provided for as soon as possible. If Court applications are required, separated parents will need to note that cases taken time to progress through the courts. So depending on when the application is first made, there may not be enough time for your case to be heard at Court. The best advice is to see the Court as a last resort and reach an agreement if at all possible.