Contact with your child this Christmas

This article was written by Simpson Millar Solicitors LLP

If you are the non-resident parent, arranging the time you spend with your children is a top priority at this time of year. A lot has changed for non-resident parents in recent years, and the value of both parents being fully involved in their child's life is understood and encouraged.

Holidays, birthdays and other special occasions concentrate the issue, but it is just as apparent all year round. So what is the best way to go about arranging time with your children?

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Equal access and the child's best interests

When parents initially split, it may feel like each parent’s situation is very different. Often, separation involves one parent moving out, and the other remaining in the family home with the children. Lots of parents are able to reach a consensus and agree on a fair arrangements, which above all keep the children happy and feeling secure. But in some cases, this isn't straightforward. The parent who doesn’t have primary care of the children may then feel they need to seek the help of a court to make a fair decision.

The University of Warwick and University of Reading research discovered there was a similar success rate between mothers and fathers alike who had applied for a child arrangements order and that fathers are not discriminated against when making a decision. The court is under a duty first and foremost to make sure that any arrangements they reach are in the child's best interests; this is the top priority when reaching a decision.

Arranging time with the children over Christmas

Sharing time with the children over the Christmas period can be a simple process for some parents, with some being able to simply pick up the phone and ask if they could see the children that day. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and agreeing contact can be particularly difficult, especially around festive seasons when parents often argue about who can have the children on which days. It is important to always think about what’s best for your child when making contact arrangements.

James Skinner, Associate Solicitor and Family Law specialist at Simpson Millar has four tips that can make arranging contact easier for non-resident parents this Christmas:

  1. Communicate – putting arguments aside and co-operating will make trying to arrange time far easier. Parenting Plans can help you reach a fair schedule and importantly – to stick to it.
  2. Plan ahead – The earlier the better. This will alleviate pressure and show clear intentions on both sides.
  3. Put children first – amongst the chaos of reaching a schedule that best suits you and the other parent, it's easy for parents to forget to ask what the children want or consider what's best for them.
  4. Be flexible – It can be difficult to split contact equally over busy holidays – you could compromise and agree for the other parent to have the children on Christmas day this year, but you can swap next year.

As with all such agreements it is always better to decide on the arrangements for the children yourselves and, with the help of a solicitor, have the arrangements certified by the court. Alternatively, if you can't agree, a solicitor can help you reach a fair arrangement through mediation.

Child Contact Advice

Simpson Millar's Family Law team can advise and support you with any child contact issues; whether you'd like to spend time with your child, make arrangements through mediation, or seek the help of a court. They provide straightforward and honest legal advice so you can move forward and play a greater role in your child's life.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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