Here are some top tips for preparing for Christmas as a separated family. It can be a fraught time of year, particularly where it’s the first Christmas since the separation and both the adults and the children are perhaps still finding their way with a different family make up. Here are 3 simple things you can do to make it easier:
Try to organise things as early as possible. In an ideal world put it in your diary in October every year so that you can be sure not to forget amidst all the other things you’ll be thinking about coming up to this time of year.
Set out your preferred options or if you don’t feel able to do this yourself, instruct your solicitor to do this for you.
If you and your ex have not agreed the arrangements by the beginning of November go and get legal advice.
Christmas is supposed to be a happy time filled with love for family and friends. If you leave it too late in trying to get an agreement on the arrangements, it will be stressful and more expensive, as your solicitor will need to act on your instructions urgently. Things can become toxic and create difficulties between you and your ex which could impact your ability to communicate going forward and make things more fraught. If you can get your ducks in a row earlier you will lessen the impact on you and your children.
Be clear on what you would like and why. Any Court looking at the issue will make a decisions based on the best interests of the children, will look at what the arrangements have been in the past and what the children are used to doing. The Court will also have to consider the children’s own views about what they would like.
Some families agree to share Christmas Day itself with one parent having the children in the morning and one parent the afternoon and some families alternate having the children on Christmas Day/New Year each year. If your children are of school age you can plan ahead by looking at the dates of the school holidays well in advance.
Have a think about how you will buy the Christmas presents. If you can agree what the children want or need then great. If not, then you can buy for them separately but you might have to accept a duplication of the children’s presents. Where the children spend an equal amount of time in each home that’s not always a bad thing, particularly when it comes to electronics!
If you cannot agree either directly between you or with the help of your solicitor negotiating, then you may have to go to Court.
A Writ will have to be prepared for you and lodged at Court. The children’s principal birth certificates will be needed as well as any marriage certificate.
Depending on how the Court system is operating, there could be a delay in having your case heard, although we would make every effort to seek an urgent hearing for you.
The location of the Court your solicitor uses is dependent on the habitual residence of the children. This means the Court located where the children ordinarily live; where do they go to school? Where do they attend the Doctor or Dentist? This is something we would assess for you and discuss with you. In order to draft the Writ, we will need some detail about your proposals, the history between you and your ex-partner and information about the children.
If your ex defends the court action the court will fix a hearing called a Child Welfare Hearing. At the moment these can take place by phone, video call or in person. You are usually expected to attend. The Court can make a decision about Christmas contact at this hearing after each party’s solicitor has had an opportunity to set out their client’s position. Sometimes the Court can ask for a Welfare Reporter to meet with the parents and the children and anyone else the court thinks appropriate, such as a school teacher.
If there is enough time, you may be able to reach an agreement through mediation. The mediator does not provide legal advice but can tell you both what the law can do and help facilitate the discussions between you. Mediation is cheaper than going to court and means that you are staying at the forefront of the decisions being made for and about your children.
Our Head of Department and Director Judith Higson and Senior Associate Director Nicola Buchanan are both Accredited Family Law Specialists, Accredited Mediators and Collaboratively Trained Solicitors. We have a wealth of experience spanning several decades to meet all of your family law needs and are ably assisted by our Assistant Solicitor, Laura Cousins and Accredited Paralegal Samantha Robertson.
The content of this article is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Scullion LAW accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this article refers.
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