Sorting out child arrangements for Christmas and New Year when you are separated or divorced can be difficult at the best of times – throw in a global pandemic, changing rules on where and how you can meet up with family and factor in different tiers and you could be forgiven for finding everything incredibly stressful.
The fundamental rules on child arrangements has not changed since we entered the first lockdown in March this year – children whose parents are living separately can be transferred between households and you should stick, where possible to any existing arrangements or court orders. But what can you do now if you cannot agree?
Christmas Child Arrangements
This year, more than ever, separated parents are having to work together to ensure minimum disruption to their children and in prioritising their wellbeing. People have been able to put aside differences and work together to protect the whole family and ensure that their children can have an enjoyable festive period with both their parents – and goodness knows so many families need and deserve this at this time.
Working together with someone you may have a firm dislike for, and putting your feelings aside is a very difficult thing to do. But family law is all about the needs of the children. And the law says those needs are best served by having a loving relationship with both their parents and enjoying quality time with both of you.
Top Tips for Agreeing Child Arrangements
Ask the children for their views and input. Don’t ask them to decide – that is your job as parents, but you need to be sure you are putting in place plans that suit the needs of the children.
Some of our clients:
Think of Christmas as 3 days (Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Boxing Day) and split the time down the middle – agreeing a transfer between 12pm and 3pm on Christmas Day.
Alternate Christmas – so that the children see one family for Christmas this year and the other next year.
Agree that the children will stay with one parent for Christmas, but spend New Year or Easter with the other parent instead.
For Christmas 2020 – there is a moratorium on the Covid rules, so that up to three households can meet. This covers 5 days from the 23rd December to 27th December (Wednesday to Sunday). You could agree to share this time equally between your ‘bubbles’ so that the children are with one family set on the 23rd December, Christmas Eve and half of Christmas Day. They then transfer to the other bubble on Christmas afternoon / evening where they spend the rest of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the 27thDecember.
Remember – children can swap between households, irrespective of the number of other households in each Christmas bubble or how many people in each household within that bubble.
It maybe that you decide that it is too much of a risk to expose vulnerable or elderly family members to a large gathering. But try to work together to make such important decisions.
Whatever you can agree – focus on the children, have discussions as early as possible so that other family members can make plans and compromise where you can. This year especially, should be seen as (hopefully) a one-off.
How can we reach an agreement?
It is extremely unlikely given the backlog at family court that you would be able to attend a MIAM and file a specific issues C100 application to court and get a hearing date before Christmas, in order to get a court decision on what arrangements should be put in place for your children’s Christmas this year. So you will have to agree outside of family court
1. Agree between yourselves
Agreeing between yourselves is going to be the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective way of sorting out child arrangements over Christmas and New Year. At a time when finances are stretched, you are far better using the money you would have spent on a solicitor or family mediator on your children or your own family where possible.
2. Use Family Mediation
Family mediation is the next logical step if you cannot agree between yourselves – and there is still time to reach an agreement prior to the Christmas period through mediation. The mediator will need to see you individually before contacting the other party to invite them to do an initial session on their own. Once you have both seen the mediator, they will put a plan together for the joint mediation session where they will work with you both to reach a compromise that can work for the whole family. The good news is that for a specific issue such as this, you should only need one or maybe two 90-minute joint mediation sessions to finalise your plan. All family mediation is currently being held through online mediation, which can help to speed up the process for you.
3. Use a Solicitor
You can instruct a solicitor to write to the other parent laying out what you would like to happen over the Christmas period. There is no guarantee of course that the other party will agree to your proposals, or even respond. But in cases where you are simply unable to communicate – even through shuttle mediation, this may be the only other option. We always recommend using a Resolution accredited solicitor where possible.
The Covid crisis has had a huge impact on families across the UK. Stress levels for many are through the roof, people are worried about their jobs, whether they can afford to live and about the health impacts on themselves and their loved ones.
Thousands of families are working together because of this pandemic, to set up a child-focused arrangement this year – why not try to join them and reduce the stress in all your lives? Mediate UK hope you have a relaxing and stress-free Christmas.
Mediate UK help couples to divorce or separate as amicably, cost-effectively and fairly as possible. We help you focus on your future, not the past. We help you focus on your children and help you both move on with your lives. What’s stopping you from finding your future today?
For more information on Family Mediation or to see why Mediate UK are rated the top amicable divorce and family mediation service in England & Wales, drop us an email to email@example.com or we can have a chat on 0330 999 0959.
The information contained in this blog is accurate for England & Wales at the time of writing (December 2020). It does not constitute legal advice and you should always check the latest Covid restrictions when agreeing your child arrangements.