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Twas the Month Before Christmas: Divorce and Child Arrangements

Christmas can be a difficult time for divorced or separated parents. The below poem illustrates how parents can communicate effectively and come up with a plan that benefits their children. Isobel Pye offers some helpful tips and advice on this subject, together with a suggested timetable for Christmas arrangements.

‘Twas the month before Christmas, and Mum spoke with Dad,they were discussing festive plans, though neither seemed mad.

Regardless of feelings, I heard them say, Christmas is about the children and it’s more than just one day.

There’s the meet with Santa next week, feeding Reindeers at the park, there’s the carol concert on Tuesday, and the Christmas light show after dark.

I’m glad they understand that Christmas lasts more than just one day. I think it will be twice as fun this year, with twice the presents and twice the

They said Dad’s usual weekend will be extra-long for the Holiday. Going forwards they’ll communicate, try to talk and collaborate.

‘Term-time arrangements are suspended’ they’ll work out half and half every year.  It was so nice to hear them talk like this, I almost let out a cheer.

Mum asked for Christmas Eve this time, and Dad said that’s fine. ‘I’ll pick them up for Christmas night’, he said, ‘we’ll spend boxing day at mine’.

I really am excited, to put Santa’s minces pies out with Mum,and after our Christmas Dinner, the day has just begun

Dad will come at 3, we’ll spend Boxing Day with him. We’ll have a buffet and play board games (I’m sure he sometimes lets me win).

The thing that makes me happiest, and I think it seems most fair is my Mum said to Dad that next year, I can spend Christmas Eve there.

Mum and Dad discussed a Christmas ‘budget’, they must be getting extra gifts…because I know for sure that Santa Claus, already has my Christmas list.

The night before Christmas, I’ll sleep quiet as a mouse
Filled with excitement to wake up with Mum, followed by more fun; more fun at Dad’s house!

Not all disputes between parents need to result in court action. Often, parents are able to work together and come up with a plan for the whole festive period.

Key to this will be focusing on the children’s wishes and feelings. It will also involve recognising that Christmas lasts for more than just one day- let’s face it, children are often much more excited about the build up to Christmas than the day itself. Try to be “Christmas season” minded instead of Christmas Day focussed, there are plenty of days for each parent.

The sooner you discuss your Christmas plans the better, rushing into a plan is bound to leave one parent bitter. Explore the option of alternating Christmas plans and try to be open to compromise.

Christmas does not have to be a sad time. If both parents are considerate and realistic, they may be able to put their differences aside for the festive season. This means that Children will be able to enjoy the magic of Christmas!

Finally, we suggest consulting each other on Christmas gifts. This will avoid one person buying an elaborate gift, when the other may not be able, or sharing the presents from a joint fund. A spending limit may be a sensible option- after all, Christmas really is about spending quality time with loved ones and having fun.

We have included a suggested Christmas schedule below. Note; this is suggested only, it is important that you work together and find a schedule that works for both parents and most importantly for the children. We would advise spreading out the child arrangements, as opposed to a straight split down the middle. Aim for 50% of the holiday each and try to fairly split the more important days like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year. Try to work around and respect each other’s family traditions. Alternating each year who has the children on Christmas Eve will mean that the parent who missed out on the Christmas morning wake up this year can look forward to this next year. It is also what the courts will do if you take that step.

If you are still struggling to come to arrangements for Christmas, or at any other time, Napthens are here to offer our support and advice. We have an experienced Family Law Team who can navigate you through this issue. For more information on the services we provide, including Divorce, Separation, Finances and child matters please contact us.


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