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With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, most of us are beginning to think about the festive season and spending time with our loved ones. If you are a parent who has recently separated, this may be a rather emotive time of year for you, particularly as your family traditions will change and the time spent with your children may need to be divided with your former partner.

If this is something you are facing this Christmas, try to discuss plans and proposals with your former partner in plenty of time to try to avoid stressful encounters on the subject in the lead up to Christmas. Planning ahead will give you and your former partner time to come to a resolution that suits everyone concerned, and to organise details like travel, visiting extended family, Christmas dinner and gifts.

When discussing these arrangements with your former partner, remember that child contact arrangements that take place during the year are usually put on hold for the festive season. The children are off school, out of nursery and out of routine. Some parents agree to equally divide the time they spend with the children for example, one parent enjoys Christmas Day every other year; or arrangements may be made for the children to stay with the parent they spend most time with during the year on Christmas Day and then spend Boxing Day with the other.

When dealing with such issues in respect of the children, mediation is an excellent way to help each parent work together in a team, despite their differences, to help agree a family based solution in the best interests of the children. There are a number of mediation services available in Northern Ireland that can help with these issues, or indeed any parenting issues you may encounter as you move through your separation.

There are unfortunately occasions where parents simply cannot reach a resolution between themselves, despite their best efforts. If you cannot reach an agreement with your former partner, it is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible, particularly if the arrangements need to be decided upon by the Court. At this time of the year the family law courts deal with an increased number of applications from parents, specifically about Christmas contact, so it is important to make any application to the court in good time. There are no set rules in law when arranging Christmas contact, and so the final arrangements to be put in place by the court will simply be on a case by case basis.

Carla Fraser offers advice and support on all issues relating to contact and aims to take a practical approach in the best interests of the children. If you would like help and support in arranging a contact schedule for your children this Christmas, or any parenting through separation issue, please do not hesitate to contact Carla in Edwards & Co. Solicitors carla.fraser@edwardsandcompany.co.uk or 02890321863


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