Planning for Christmas?

It’s that time of year when everyone is asking “what are you doing for Christmas?” but if you are newly separated it may be a question you are dreading as the arrangements for the children haven’t been agreed.

Christmas can be an extremely difficult time, especially if you have had a recent family breakdown and you need to make new arrangements for the children.   If you’re not careful this may deteriorate to arguments around the prospective arrangements, for example who is paying for what and whether the children should spend Christmas with your ex-partner’s new extended family.

What is important is to keep it all in perspective and to remember that all the arrangements should be what is in the best interests of the children, not the adults.

It is important not to put pressure on the children by asking them what they want to do as, obviously, they want to please everybody for Christmas.

The most important factor is to plan early when emotions are not so high. This gives both families the opportunity to make all of their plans in advance and keeps conflict to a minimum.

The main event obviously surrounds Christmas Day as this is the day that the children open their presents and families gather for a Christmas meal.  So how do separated parents split this day so their children get the best of both worlds?

Basically, it is important to note that there is no set formula regarding the arrangements for the children at Christmas.  Every family has different traditions, so a plan is required that allows the children to enjoy the majority of these, albeit with separate parents.

Some of the options are available are as follows:

One Day Each

The children wake up with one parent and spend the day with them to go to the other parent late in the afternoon/early evening. They then spend Boxing Day with the other parent so, in theory, they have two Christmases.

Split Christmas Day

The children go to the other parent at lunch time so get to spend time with both parents on Christmas Day.

Alternate Years

The parents agree that the children will spend all of Christmas Day with one parent and then going to the other parent the following year.


Whatever is agreed between the parents it is important to note that the children are also made aware of the arrangements so that they do  not need to worry unnecessarily about it and will be happier if they know their parents have agreed matters for them.


What if you can’t agree?

Mediation still remains a positive option for both parties to attend to see a qualified mediator to see if an agreement can be reached. The advantage of this process is that both parties get to put their view forward in an informal environment and can listen to what the other party has to say.  Hopefully an agreement can be reached which suits everyone and allows the parents to continue to co-parent as best they can.

Ultimately, if you can’t agree on the arrangements for the children then either parent can apply to the family court for a specific issue order and ask the court to make a decision for them.  However, this can be a draconian step in that it literally is asking someone else to decide what happens to their children and, ultimately the court may order something that doesn’t suit anybody!  Furthermore, that order is then in place for the foreseeable future.  The likelihood being that the court will make an order that the children spend Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day the other and then this is reversed the following year.

Hopefully you do manage to reach an amicable agreement regarding Christmas.  If you are not exactly happy with the arrangements, please remember that it is really only one day and the arrangements can be re-visited next year. It comes around quickly enough!


Victoria Richardson

Family Law Partner

McHale & Co

Should you require advice regarding any family law issue please contact me on 0161 928 3848 or at

Your Will and Inheritance Tax

With the beginning of any new tax year, it is the ideal time to review your Will, especially if you haven’t done so for a while.

As things stand, the current inheritance tax rate is 40% and if there is anything you can legitimately do to minimise your estate’s exposure to this this, ultimately reducing the taxman’s cut of your loved one’s inheritance, we’re sure you would want to take appropriate action.

Each person has an initial tax-free allowance on death known as the nil-rate band, which refers to the amount of your estate that will not be taxed after your death. Currently, this is set at £325,000. The good news is, this can now be supplemented by the main residence nil-rate band, which adds an additional tax-free allowance of up to £150,000 for deaths on or after 6th April 2019.

However, you won’t be surprised to know that there are conditions which must be met in order to qualify for the for this additional tax relief. These include:

  • You may only claim the allowance against a residential property which forms part of your estate and has been your residence at some point;
  • The residence must be left to one or more of your direct descendants on your death;
  • If your estate is worth more than £2million then you may not qualify for the additional allowance
  • The amount of the allowance will be staged – £150,000 for 2019/20; and £175,000 for 2020/21.

This is just a brief overview of the key components of inheritance tax. As you can see, there are lots of issues and complications to be considered to fully minimise the cost you your estate. This is where we can help.

We would always recommend regularly reviewing your Will with a qualified solicitor. They will be able to expertly guide you through the process, highlighting any potential pitfalls and how best to avoid them. We regularly see clients who have current Wills made over 10 years ago, who have complicated trust arrangements, which may not be the most cost-effective way of dealing with their affairs, under the current law.

If you have any questions around inheritance tax or wish to review your Will to ensure you are leaving the maximum possible to your loved ones, we are always here to help. Please call 0161 928 3848 or email to arrange.

Why you should use a professional to write a Will

You may have noticed articles in the press recently about the increasing number of Wills that are challenged. It seems as a society we are more inclined to challenge a validly executed Will if we are unhappy with the content.

It can be distressing for all parties involved when a Will is challenged not to mention, expensive and time consuming.
So what can you do to prevent this happening?

In the first instance I would strongly suggest you consult a qualified Solicitor who specialises in dealing with this area of Law. In some circumstances there is nothing you can do to prevent a challenge taking place. However by discussing your individual circumstances with an experienced professional we can do everything possible to ensure that your wishes are in as legally robust format as possible.

In some circumstances we recommend that a Solicitor and a Doctor act as witnesses to your Will. I suppose you would call it a “belt and braces” approach and it really depends on your personal circumstances as to whether this is the best way forward.

A Will made with a qualified Solicitor is not necessarily as expensive as you may think.
The service includes:

• Personal attention from a qualified Solicitor who will apply their knowledge to your individual circumstances and often ask you to consider things you have never thought of.
• Drafting of the Will to meet your needs and an explanation of any relevant legal issues
• Ensuring the Will is Executed in accordance with the law. Executed basically making sure that the Will is drafted and signed correctly so that when it is needed for Probate it can be presented effectively.
• Storage – we store your Will for free and provide copies as required.
• In addition, like all Solicitors firms we are insured and therefore you are protected by our Professional Indemnity Insurance policy.

Don’t leave it too late. We would strongly recommend ensuring you write a Will to provide for what happens after you’ve gone. It may not be as expensive as you think and we will do our best to make the process as simple and easy as possible for you.

We are always here to help so please call Philippa, Helen, Michaela or Philip on 0161 928 3848 or email

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