Christmas Arrangements for Separated Families

Christmas Arrangements for Separated Families

Whilst it may only be September, now is the time to reach an agreement with your former partner about the arrangements for the children at Christmas.

It may well be that you are simply alternating the arrangements from last Christmas but what if you only separated from your partner this year, and this Christmas will be the first one as separated parents?Christmas is a very difficult time when you are a separated parent. So how do you make an arrangement which leads to Christmas still being a special time for the family and in particular the children?

The advice is to sort out the arrangements early so everyone knows what is happening, and December is not any more stressful than it might otherwise be. There are various options open in terms of the arrangements for the children and you should consider amongst other things the following:- whether Christmas Day itself should be divided, would it be better for one of you to have the children in the morning to wake up and open presents with and the other to have the children in the afternoon for Christmas Dinner?

Or you might agree that one parent has the children on Christmas Day and the other parent has them on Boxing Day?

Or you agree that one parent has the children for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the other parent has the children for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?

The point to remember is that generally whatever the arrangements are for this year, the opposite arrangements will take place next year. Therefore if you agree that you should be having Christmas Day this year, and the other parent should have Boxing Day, next year the arrangements would be reversed and you would be having the children on Boxing Day.

If you cannot reach an agreement, the first option is to try and resolve the issue in mediation. If you cannot reach an agreement then a court application would be necessary. This takes time however, and it is not something that can be left until the last week before Christmas.
The advice is therefore to resolve these arrangements sooner rather than later.

For more information or some preliminary, confidential advice please contact our Family Team, or your local office.

Children FAQ’s

Children FAQ’s

1. What rights do Grandparents have?

Grandparents, currently, do not have any legal rights over their grandchildren. The only people with legal responsibility for a child is their parent, or anyone with the benefit of a court order in their favour, such as a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order.  If the relationship has broken down between the grandparents and the parents of the child the grandparent would need to seek a court order to see their grandchild. The first step is to seek the court’s permission to make the application. The court’s only concern is the welfare of the child and will only make an order if the court believes it is the best interest of the child.

2. I am their parent, surely it’s my right to have my children half of the time?

Although as a parent you have legal responsibility for your child, this does not mean that you have a “right” to have your child with you half of the time. It is for you as parents to agree on what time your child should be spending with each of you. If you cannot agree the arrangements, then a court would make the decision. The court starts from the point that the child has a right to a relationship with both their parents, and will then make an order which is in the child’s best interest.

3. I want to take my children abroad on holiday, surely I can do this?

If you have a Child Arrangements Order in your favour confirming your child should live with you, then you can remove your child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales for 28 days each year. If you do not have an order, then you must obtain the consent of the other parent who holds parental responsibility for the child. If they consent (and you should get this in writing) then you can take your children on holiday abroad. If they will not consent to the holiday, then an application to the court is required and the court would decide whether or not you should take your children abroad on holiday. The likelihood is that the court would consent unless you were proposing travelling to a dangerous country or removing the children from school for a lengthy period of time.

4. Can I stop the other parent moving away with my children?

You cannot stop your former spouse/partner moving away. However if you have what is called parental responsibility for your children, then you have to consent your children moving. If you do not, an application would need to be lodged with the court by the other parent. The court would then have to consider the benefit of the move and consider whether this is in the best interest of the children.  If the move would not impact on the time the children are spending with either parent, the move is likely to be approved.

5. My former partner is not letting me see the children, and is not giving me any information about the children, what can I do?

If you have parental responsibility for the children you are entitled to ask for information about your children from their school or GP direct.  If you and your former partner cannot agree on the arrangements for the children, then you would need to make an application to the court asking for an order for the children to spend time with you. The older the children are, the more impact their views will have on the court ordered arrangements. A 14 year old’s views have a greater weight than a 5 year old’s views. This is because of the child’s level of understanding. The court will then make an order based on the child’s best interests.

6. I have had a letter from social services and there is a meeting, what do I do?

If you have received a letter from social services you must not ignore the letter and you must attend any meeting. It may be a meeting to discuss concerns that have arisen and it may be possible to agree a plan with social services that if followed will mean they will close their file. Or it could be a meeting where social services indicate that they have serious concerns about your children and that they want to take court action to consider removing the children from your care. It is important that whatever letter you receive, you immediately take legal advice so you can understand the consequences of the letter.

7. I work long hours, my partner looks after the children, but social services are involved, why?

Your partner may, unfortunately, not be providing a good enough level of care to the children whilst you are at work. This could be for any reason. Social Services will want to discuss the childcare arrangements with you to see if you are able to share the childcare more; what you can do to help your partner or what other action needs to be taken to look after the children properly. You should engage with the social services.

For more information or some preliminary, confidential advice please contact Emma Benyon-Tinker, Associate in our Family Team, or your local Everys Office.