Arranging Contact with Children Over the Christmas Holidays This Year

For the majority of parents with children, Christmas is a magical time of year, filled with fun, laughter and joy and a chance to spend quality time together. But where parents have separated or divorced, arranging to spend time with their children during times of special celebration can be stressful and upsetting to organise, especially where the other parent is proving difficult or unreasonable.

2020 has been an exceptional year where child arrangements may have been disrupted due to Covid-19.

Here are some things to consider when making plans over the festive period this year.

Know your rights

There is no legal provision for Christmas contact arrangements, with separated or divorced parents being advised to come to an agreement between themselves. Due to workload and time pressures, the Court will usually not intervene unless your application is lodged in sufficient time for it to be dealt with.

Agree plans early

The run up to Christmas is often a stressful time for the majority of people, without the added pressure of trying to agree arrangements for contact with children. So where possible, try to agree arrangements between yourselves well in advance. If there is a way for both parents to spend time with the children, this may be the preferable option, or if one parent had the child(ren) last year, perhaps it can be agreed to take turns.

Although this year brings the added complication of family bubbles and the five day window where the rules will be relaxed for families mixing indoors, it should still be possible to agree a way forward so that both co-parents can see their children.

Set ground rules

One of the main causes of aggravation between separated parents is disruption to a child/children’s normal routine – such as late nights, access to technology or devices or eating excessively or unhealthily. In order to try and prevent arguments, it is useful for both parents to agree a set of ground rules that both parents are to follow when they have the children with them.

Going abroad

If you are planning to take a holiday abroad over the festive season and want to take your child(ren), remember it is essential to seek the permission of the other parent in advance of the trip.

Put the children first

Although you will of course want to see your children at Christmas, remember that their interests should remain your number one priority at all times. If the children are old enough, perhaps you should consider involving them in making plans; asking them what they would like to do. In the main, children will want to see both parents, so try to find a way to make this happen.

Where you find it difficult to communicate with your ex-partner, it can help to involve a solicitor to represent your interests. The family department at O’Donnell Solicitors have a great deal of experience and can offer help and advice specific to your circumstances.

Anthony Jones is a Director, Head of Family and is a Resolution Accredited Specialist.

For more information on any aspect of divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please contact him on 01457 761320 or email