The holiday festive period can be a stressful time for everyone, and even more so for parents who are unable to see their children.
Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year, for both parents and children alike – but when you’re separated from your children you can often end up feeling lonely, resentful and jealous.
Some divorced couples can put their differences aside over Christmas for the sakes of their children, however not all parents get this luxury. For some parents, not being able to watch their children open their presents can be heartbreaking. And whilst it is difficult to come to a legal agreement surrounding visiting times at Christmas, you may be able to come to an informal arrangement with your ex-partner.
Negotiating an Alternative Christmas Visitation Schedule:
Alternative Christmas Arrangements
When proposing an alternative arrangement to your child’s other parent, it is important that you do so as early on as possible so that you can both come to terms with the agreement and make sure that it suits not only your needs but the needs of your child too.
If you start demanding access to your child on Christmas Day as the non-resident parent, the chances are you’re going to get shot down. That is why you should take a calm and compromising approach, maybe suggest a time on Christmas Day where you could visit and give your child/children their gifts.
Or you could suggest alternative years, where the first year your child stays with your ex-partner, then the second year your child visits you, and this continues until your child is old enough to make their own decisions.
Another great idea is to have an ‘early Christmas’, where you can give your children their presents, have Christmas dinner, and do all the traditional festive things you love to do, just a bit earlier than usual.
You tend to find once you and your ex-partner are happy with the agreement, it continues year after year with ease. However don’t be disheartened if the residential parent refuses your proposition, it can be difficult to come to terms with a huge change straight away. Try not to get frustrated or say something you may later regret, instead you could ask your ex-partner what arrangement they would favor. It is better to celebrate with your family on your ex-partners terms rather than not at all.
It’s understandable that when you do get to spend time with your children at Christmas, you want to spoil them rotten with presents; however, you could end up causing more problems than you actually solve.
Many divorced or separated parents try to compete with each other when it comes to gifts; however one parent will always outdo the other. You should try and avoid competing – if you get the best present for your child, your ex-partner is likely to become frustrated and as a result, they could put a stop to your informal agreements at Christmas, and likewise, if the resident parent buys the best gift, you could be left feeling second best.
Christmas should be a joyful time for everyone, and if possible, communicate with your ex-partner prior to Christmas Day and ensure that you both stick to a sensible budget in order to avoid any animosity.
If your ex-partner refuses to communicate or establish a budget for presents, the best thing to do is to openly and honestly explain to your children that you don’t think a gift is suitable for them or it is too expensive. You can always compromise with your child, but being honest is the best way forward for all parties involved.
For parents, Christmas can either be magical or miserable – and this depends on your approach and attitude. If you are mature and understanding about the situation, then you’re more likely to come to an agreement with your child’s parent. Compromising is the first step in building bridges with your ex-partner and establishing a strong co-parenting relationship which will benefit you as a parent and your child not only at Christmas but throughout the rest of the year also.
Kerry Smith is the Head of Family Law at K J Smith Solicitors, a specialist family law firm that deals with a wide range of issues, including divorce, domestic violence, civil partnerships, and prenuptial agreements. Kerry has over 15 years of experience in family law and is recommended by the Legal 500 guide to law firms in the UK.