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Cracking Christmas Contact “Making contact happen …and making contact work is one of the most difficult and contentious challenges in …family law” - Baroness Hale, 2006 Making contact work is an especial challenge at Christmas, requiring goodwill on both sides.

Christmas is to be enjoyable, then ALL three components have to be balanced.

Christmas is for families – sharing the good things of life, creating family traditions and making special memories for the children in our lives – and expectations are high.

Most of us have a Christmas budget – in the case of the separated family this has to include budgeting time, not only money.

When parents are no longer together and both want to spend time with their children at the highlights of the holiday season, or provide the best (most expensive) presents or outings, this creates stress. The addition of open or suppressed hostility between parents creates the potential for festive disaster. But this need not be the case. All other things being equal, children love both parents and want to spend time with them both – but children will also have their own friends and invitations, and if

Negotiation and compromise are more effective than conflict, and are more likely to create and maintain a constructive working relationship between separated parents. Be aware of the other person’s viewpoint, focussing on what is best for the children. This is good advice at any time of the year. The Children Act (as amended), encourages parents to reach agreement without involving the courts. In most cases they are required to attempt formal mediation before a court application can be submitted. In the case of problems

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around Christmas that will simply be too late. Contact and residence orders have been replaced by the “child arrangements order” whereby the court decides when and with whom a child is “to live, spend time or otherwise have contact”. The change of emphasis is intended to correct the misplaced perception that, although parents legally continue to share parental responsibility, the parent with whom the child resides has the casting vote or final say. It is presumed (unless the contrary is proved) that a child’s welfare is furthered by having both parents involved in his/her life. The court’s primary concern is the child’s welfare. An increasingly robust line is taken when parental disagreements produce emotional harm in their children. Bearing in mind those legal principles, the following are some practical suggestions for approaching common issues that seem to crop up for clients year after year.

DO put the children’s needs first, second and last – sharing time at the festive season is NOT about point scoring against your ex: The aim is to give the children as great a Christmas with each of you separately as they had when you were together.


insist that your children fit in with how your new partner and their children celebrate Christmas. They may be happy to do so but if not, even if you think they are being influenced, perhaps it would be better for all if they spend a Happy New Year with you instead of a miserable Christmas?


try to outspend your ex on presents and treats – there is no competition: the aim is to give the children a good Christmas. Ipswich 01473 255591 Diss 01379 643555

Felixstowe 01394 279636 Harleston 01379 854455

December 2014

DO try to agree beforehand who is taking them to the panto or who buys what – a Wii with no games to play on it will fall


flat. While you may secretly enjoy your ex’s crestfallen expression, you’ll feel differently about your son or daughter’s disappointment. Remember also that sometimes the best things in life can be free.


vary Christmas contact arrangements at the last moment without explanation.

DO give as much notice as possible if you would like something changed, and explain why – and if you are on the receiving end of the request don’t automatically refuse as a reflex reaction: their employer may be making unexpected demands or they have received an unexpected invitation which the children will enjoy. Hopefully you won’t face contact challenges this Christmas. If you do, and the suggestions in this article have not resolved matters, take legal advice as early as possible. This article provides only a general summary and is not intended to be comprehensive. Specific legal advice should be taken in any individual situation. Do contact Anita Sharpe on 01379 643555 or email

Diss & Attleborough December 2014  

The December 2014 edition of Dispatch Magazine for Diss & Attleborough

Diss & Attleborough December 2014  

The December 2014 edition of Dispatch Magazine for Diss & Attleborough