As a member of Resolution I am committed to dealing with my clients' matters in a non-confrontational and prompt manner. However, in the few weeks before any holiday period such an approach becomes more difficult to maintain, often as a result of a lack of planning on the part of separated parents. That said, my difficulties as a lawyer during this time are minimal compared to the stresses that my clients can experience. What is frustrating is that matters can be made easier for everyone if the thorny issue of holiday contact is tackled early, and the bull is grabbed by the horns, so to speak.
It is extremely common for separated parents to be unable to agree how to share the care of their children over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. I understand this entirely – both parents want to spend such a special time with their children. They want to put their children to bed on Christmas Eve, spend Christmas day and celebrate the New Year together with their children. The problem which arises is that both separated parents want to spend the same periods of time with their children and compromises have to be made.
When compromises cannot be made, the final recourse is to go to Court for adjudication on a specific issue. The Court has the power to decide how the care of children is to be shared during the holiday period. However, getting the matter before a Judge can take time.
Usually, the week before Christmas I am inundated with queries from clients who cannot agree how to share the care of their children over the Christmas period. If I am instructed the week before Christmas, it is not a safe strategy in many cases to negotiate matters. The fear is that such negotiations will not result in an agreement, and then the holiday is upon us, and the client does not have the time or the opportunity to get a Judge to decide the matter. As I need to avoid my clients being in this situation, I often find myself, before a holiday period, advising my clients to issue Court proceedings as soon as possible, without fully exhausting out of court options. This is not ideal, as it can be expensive and aggressive, and although the short term issue of how the children are to spend their holiday time will be resolved by the Court, often the damage caused to the separated parents’ relationships can run deep.
Therefore, my plea is simple – if you are a separated parent and you have not yet agreed with your child(ren)’s other parent how to share care during Christmas and New Year, start working to achieve such an agreement now. If your efforts are unsuccessful, seek legal advice as soon as possible and do not leave it to the week before Christmas. Such an approach will increase the chances of matters being dealt with without the need for a Judge to make a decision. However, if this is not the case, I can assist you getting the dispute before a Judge in a calm and timely manner which will be less stressful to you than being in emergency court proceedings.
For a different perspective as to planning for your children to spend the holiday period in two different households, I refer you to Christian McGhee blog posts on this issue such as ‘Planning for seasonal success; holiday tips for parents apart’ and ‘How divorce parents can help their children survive the holidays.’
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