Lanyon Bowdler's Specialist in Family Law, Philippa Pearson chats to Sunshine Radio's Mark Edwards.
In Conversation with Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors
Monday, December 13th, 2021 - 7 minutes
Christmas Contact Podcast- With Philippa Pearson From Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors
Christmas can be a lovely festive but it is also a very emotional time of the year, especially for those who have young children that they cannot be with all of the time because they are separated from the other parent. For those people who have separated and have not yet agreed the Christmas arrangements for their children, it is probably too late for any application to be made to the court. For any parent who has not reached an agreement and is finding it impossible to do so, the first port of call would be to try a local mediator although there can be no guarantee that an agreement will be reached in mediation. There are lots of mediators in Shropshire and Herefordshire ( details on the website?)
Perhaps the best advice that can be given to a parent in this situation is not to get hung up on what could have been. Yes,childhood is short but Christmas is for children not for the parents and typically, any arrangements made of this year for Christmas will be reversed by the court for the following year.so what one parent gets this year, the other normally gets the next.
There is no formula for Christmas arrangements – those that are made will depend upon where the children involved, and the families live and whether they live close to each other or not.
If the parents live relatively close to each other some will split Christmas Day but this will not work if they are any distance apart.
A lot of people have the children with one parent on Christmas Day and the other parent on Boxing Day so that the children think they are having two Christmas days.This generally works well.
Usually, the parent who has Christmas Day with the children does not have them at New Year and this arrangement reverses the following year.
Solicitors can also help but often at this late stage all that can be done is writing a letter to the other party and managing our client's expectations.
The best advice that can be given to any parent in this situation therefore is to be fair. Next year, the arrangements for Christmas should be in place by September/early October at the latest so that if all else fails an application can be made to the court.if things do go completely awray- the golden rule is do not argue in front of the child. Remember it is their childhood and their Christmas – make a note and if necessary bring it to the attention of the court in the new year but above all be the bigger person.
1. What is the best arrangement?
A child focused arrangement works best. Children do not mind having two Christmases but try to avoid too much to-ing and fro-ing and don't forget to use Zoom, what's app etc so that the children can be in touch with the parent that they are not with. If you are that parent speaking to the children on Zoom take care not to use language that will upset the children – do not let them know that you are lonely or upset that they are not with you.
2.What should be done about presents?
If possible, try and agree with the other parent what a big presents should be bought for the children and share the costs so that they come from both of you. Otherwise, try to agree the value of the presents that will be bought so that one parent is not seen to be buying better presents than the other.
3.What difference will Covid make?
We do not know the answer this as yet but if there is a lockdown, we can be fairly certain that the lockdown restrictions will not prevent children going from one parent to the other if their parents are separated. The Government and the President of the Family Division made it very clear when we had lockdown last time that children were to be allowed to see both of their parents and that their contact should not be stopped as a result of lockdown restrictions and this was the case even when contact took place between the jurisdictions of, for instance, England and Wales.
Generally, try your hardest to encourage the children to see the other parent and demonstrate how reliable and trustworthy you are but if things are not going well – keep a diary. This is often crucial evidence ( its amazing what you forget over time) it does not need to be detailed but it will be very useful if you do have to go to court
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