Bishop & Sewell

Christmas is a magical time for children of all ages. Separated and divorced parents should look to create new traditions to ensure it stays that way, says Sofia Maxwell Associate Solicitor in our Family and Divorce team.

As all parents recognise, Christmas involves considerable planning and organisation. School concerts, nativity plays, Christmas shopping, visits to grandparents, perhaps skiing or winter sun and, of course, the big day itself.

Yet Christmas can easily become a challenging and emotional time for separated parents. The pressure of the festive season arrangements, handover days, concerns over time with new partners or competitive gift-giving can, understandably, become a little too much.

Where possible, separated parents need to agree on their own Christmas arrangements between themselves, turning to their lawyers only as a last resort. The children’s best interests are the paramount consideration, but sadly that does not always align with the demands of parents.

Below are the usual options most separated families can adopt at Christmas:

  • The children spend a week with each parent, the Christmas week with one parent and the New Year week with the other, alternating every year.
  • Splitting Christmas, with the children having Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent and Christmas afternoon and Boxing Day with the other. This option is really only open to parents living fairly close to each other.
  • Having two Christmas Days, one with each family, alternating 25th December every year.
  • Putting aside any differences and having Christmas Day with your former partner.

This last option is not always practical or sensible and needs to be considered carefully. It can inadvertently suggest to children that mum and dad have ‘patched up’ their differences and are getting back together.

The first Christmas after a divorce will likely be the toughest on both parents, but they should try and reach an amicable agreement creating new traditions that all will remember for all the right reasons. But that is not always possible.

Where an agreement cannot be reached, parents should look to mediation – a process that separating divorcing couples may well have used to agree other arrangements.

Where mediation is not an option or was attempted but was not fruitful, parents can turn to a family lawyer who can help them reach an agreement, turning to the courts if need be. This is, however, time-consuming and can incur considerable costs, adding to an already emotionally charged situation.

Separated parents should discuss Christmas arrangements alongside other key holiday dates at the beginning of the school year. Early agreement will take much of the last-minute emotion out of those discussions making agreement much easier to reach.


Contact our Family and Divorce Teams

The Family and Divorce at Bishop & Sewell have a wealth of experience in dealing with divorce and separation, including all financial aspects.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, please email or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to our Family Law team.

The above is accurate as at 28 November 2023. The information above may be subject to change. 

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Sofia Maxwell Associate Solicitor   +44207 631 4141

Category: Blog, News | Date: 1st Dec 2023

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