Santa CAN come twice; making plans early for Christmas is key
Seeing your child’s face light up at the sight of Santa’s stocking full of presents is part of the magic of Christmas. But for parents who are separated or divorced the question as to who will be the one sharing this precious moment is one of the many emotional minefields that can turn the festive season a battlefield. According to Emma Parmaine, Head of Family Law at national law firm Simpson Millar, now is the time for estranged couples to reach clear agreements as to who will have the children and when, well before the magic of Christmas descends on Britain.
“As the run-up to the festive period gets underway, with the added stresses it brings, emotions can run high. Parents often come to us close to this particular holidays pleading for help to make sure they get to spend time with their children over Christmas,” says Emma. “Sometimes, structured mediation can be really successful in helping parents reach a sensible and fair compromise.
Last year, Emma was approached by several distraught fathers just a few days before Christmas – desperately asking for help because their child’s mother had decided to deny them time with the children over the holidays. But although sometimes the only way to ensure access is by applying to the courts, leaving it until the last minute is unwise.
“Parents really need to think and talk about what will happen over Christmas at the earliest possible time; now ideally. This year Christmas Day falls on a Thursday and whilst we’d still make a court application as late as the Monday or Tuesday of that week, there’s no guarantee they would have time to deal with it,” Emma cautions.
Parents don’t need to have any sort of Child Arrangement Order (CAO)
, formerly known as a Contact Order, in place before seeking legal representation
“You don’t need to be divorced; you can be separated and even living under the same roof. We can still apply for a CAO to cover the Christmas period,” she says.
Behaving in a punitive way towards one another is not only painful for warring parents. It also harms the wellbeing of the child warns Emma.
“Adults can easily get hung up on being the one who wakes up with their children to discover that Santa’s been there. But the festive season is long and there are so many wonderful experiences to be had the following days too. In my experience, Children often don’t mind which parent they are with on 25 December. I try to encourage parents to make it a bonus that their children get to enjoy two different Christmas Days.
“By opening up discussions now, there is time for talk and mediation. Likewise, in situations where the mother or father fears the other party might change their mind or be unreasonable, and mediation is unsuccessful or not a suitable option, we are able to issue a court application and reach a decision that is binding in time for Christmas,” she says. “Having something in black and white which then gives parents the option to be a little more flexible if they wish can help avoid some serious conflicts at a very emotional time. It’s all about finding solutions that will appease both parties and keep your child’s best interests at heart.”