Planning for Christmas?

22nd Nov 2019

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

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