Christmas is once a year, every year. Most parents do their best to make it a pleasant and cheerful period for their children.  It is a time for reconciliation and peace. For those who are forced to co-parent, this may not be the case.  For co-parents the thought of collaborating with an ex or other significant person in the children’s lives, to make Christmas arrangements for the children, can be unnerving especially where there is high conflict in deciding where should children spend their Christmas. 

When emotions are still raw and/or there is no prospect of reasonable communication, an arrangement that can be cordially made may become a stressful experience for the children. It can be difficult to figure out how to start making these parenting arrangements for the children ahead of Christmas. You can find it daunting to deal with the intricacies of what will be a reasonable parenting arrangement for the children during Christmas and how you can make an arrangement that is child-focused and in the children’s best interest.

Where should children spend their Christmas this year? Ask early! 

First, it is beneficial to start working out the children’s spend time with arrangements for Christmas early. Ideally, prior to December, when there is still time to deliberate and work out a reasonable and suitable Christmas arrangement that will first and foremost suit the Children and is stress free. If you are starting such discussions late or have only started considering them or you have been approached by the other person to discuss the Christmas arrangements for the children do not panic. Use your best endeavours to ensure that you sort the Christmas arrangements for the children within reasonable time and as soon as practicable.

Make crucial times count 

Secondly, it is important to consider the crucial times the children may spend with each parent. These times include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and any birthdays that fall within this period. It is also important to consider the location for the changeover.

Consider your kids' safety this Christmas

Finally, any Christmas arrangement should be child-focused and in the children’s best interest. It is in the children’s interest to spend time with both parents and other significant persons in the children’s lives they have a relationship with, if it's safe and practical to do so. Just because it is Christmas season do not make arrangements for the children to spend time with another person if it’s unsafe for the child and/or impractical.  An impractical arrangement may include an arrangement where a child or children are made to travel for at least two hours on Christmas Day to spend time with the other party or expecting a child to be returned at midnight. However, each family law matter is different and unique and arrangements should be made based on the facts and dynamics of your situation.

Ultimately, the goal is to make Christmas stress-free for the children and to provide the children with an enjoyable and memorable Christmas experience. Both parties can attempt to collaborate or negotiate a workable child-focused and practical arrangement without the involvement of lawyers or the court. A court order may not be necessary. Simply ensure that any agreement reached is clearly recorded in writing. This can be a drafted parenting plan for the Christmas period, an email between the parties, or a text message. This is so that your arrangements are clear and easily referred to in the future. 

You can seek help from an experienced solicitor if an agreement cannot be reached.  At first instance, a solicitor can assist you by providing you with advice and tools that you can use to support the private discussions between you, and if it proceeds to a mediation then in mediation. The solicitor can equally write to the other party on your behalf, subject to your instructions.

Should you require support, New South Lawyers have a team of experienced family lawyers who understand the difficulties parents and significant persons in a child’s life face when it comes to making decisions for children. Feel free to contact us for a free, short, no obligation chat.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.