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Family contact at Christmas

By Helen Waite, Associate Solicitor in Family Department.

It’s only 8 weeks to Christmas and for some families, arrangements are already in place. That isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re separated and you have children, then agreeing how time will be spent over Christmas isn’t always that easy.

If you asked most children what they would want at Christmas it’s likely the majority would say, “to spend it with both parents”. Whilst what they would like may not be practical, ensuring that their wishes are listened to as much as is possible is important.

Hopefully both parents will be able to agree the time that the children spend with each parent over Christmas, but if it’s not possible to make those arrangements directly between them then there are other ways to resolve matters.

Mediation is a relatively cost effective and time effective alternative.

Both parties meet with a mediator, usually a solicitor trained in mediation, who will help both parents to discuss matters concerning the children and specifically the arrangements for Christmas. Having an objective and independent party who knows the law can be very helpful in ironing out outstanding matters and any misunderstandings and helping both parents to come to an agreement.

Collaborative Law is another option.

This is a process whereby matters that cannot be resolved directly between the parents themselves can be resolved with the help of solicitors. Each parent appoints a collaborative lawyer and instead of letters passing between solicitors, discussions about arrangements for the children would take place face to face with both parties and their collaborative solicitors present. The solicitors work together to try and help both parents come to an agreement. Again this is a quicker alternative to court proceedings and in most cases cheaper. It allows parents to discuss matters face to face and they hopefully end the process knowing that the arrangements have been agreed rather than imposed. All parties will sign an agreement not to issue a court application and therefore minds are focused on resolving matters.

Finally, if it is not possible to agree matters, or there is an urgency or a risk of harm to the children, then an application to the court can made. How quickly this will be dealt with by the court will depend on the urgency of the application. Both parents will be encouraged with the help of Cafcass to reach agreement even within the court process. However, if agreement cannot be reached then ultimately the court will decide on the arrangements.

At Thomson Snell and Passmore we are able to provide all of these options as a means of resolving matters. If you anticipate that there will difficulties concerning arrangements over Christmas, it is a good idea to act in plenty of time. If you have any questions on this subject or would like to discuss matters generally concerning your children then please contact Helen Waite on 01892 701213 or by email on helen.waite@ts-p.co.uk.