As a father, or even grandparent or then estranged mother, living in England or Wales, no one individual care giver has an automatic right and entitlement to see or spend time with children over the Christmas holidays, unless you have a Child Arrangements Order (a type of Court Order made by the Family Court in relation to contact) that says otherwise.
It’s perfectly understandable as a dad, or mother, or grandparent or then any other relation for that matter, that you’ll want to see your own children or grandchildren or nephews etc. over the Christmas holiday period; after all, it’s a special time of the year and most of us want to then take time out to spend then what precious time we have with those that we love the most, and for young children, it can be a particularly magical occasion which you’ll want to be a part of and no doubt wish to make memorable for all.
But the fact of the matter is that as a parent or even grandparent, there is no specific legal entitlement or right that over Christmas, you should automatically be entitled to spend time with children over the festive season. The law in England and Wales simply doesn’t make any special or specific provision relating to contact with children over Christmas.
If then, for example, you’re a father and you’re no longer living in the same household as your children, if you are wanting to see your children then over the Christmas holiday period, you’ll need to come to an agreement with their mother as to when you can see them.
Christmas holiday contact time can often be very difficult to agree upon by negotiation alone and there are no hard or fast rules or standard arrangements that should be followed.
Sometimes parents can make an agreement between themselves. For example, you might decide that one parent sees the children in the morning on Christmas Day, and the other sees them in the afternoon or decide that the children spend this Christmas day with their mother, and the next year with their father and so on. Clearly in this respect, the wishes of the children are an important consideration, but should be kept in proportion with the age and understanding of each child. Plainly, the wishes and feelings of older children will carry greater weight than say those of younger children, because of their age(s) and maturity but having said that, it is important to establish the children’s wishes and listen carefully to them. This does not mean that the children get to dictate the holiday.
However, coming to an amicable agreement isn’t always easy; it isn’t unusual for separated parents to clash over child contact arrangements, especially when it comes to Christmas so as a father or other relation, where does this leave you?
It is important that you and those persons that you share care of the children with (usually the mother) communicate with one another at all times in respect of issues regarding your children. Ideally, you should seek to maintain a united front in your role as carers in the best interests of the children. That requires consultation, honesty and openness in dealings regarding the children.
The law says that it is the right of the children to see the parents, and not the other way around.
You and your spouse or other carer need to speak regularly to discuss the children’s upbringing and their daily/weekly/monthly programmes, so that contact can work as well as is possible.
If despite every best effort there are disagreements regarding any aspect of the child arrangements, at Prism Family Law, we would always recommend that before jumping into Court proceedings, that mediation should be looked at and considered first.
Mediation is when a specially trained mediator works to help you reach an agreement as to where and when each parent sees their children.
If this isn’t successful, you can apply to the Family Court then for a Child Arrangement Order from the Court. This involves making an application on a prescribed form to the local Family Court to where the children ordinarily reside, where a Judge will decide if required to do so, what the future child arrangements should be, taking into consideration then all the available evidence and the welfare checklist set out by the Children Act 1989. Once a Child Arrangement Order is made, ideally by agreement, but if not, following a final hearing, then the Order is legally binding, meaning then that if a Judge rules that child contact should be shared over Christmas (for example) then that’s what must happen – giving you, for example, as a father, the legal right and entitlement to see your children at Christmas, failing which, enforcement action can be taken.
With then only 11 weeks to go to Christmas (as at 10 October 2018), if this is an issue that applies to you, then you must act now should you wish to have any hope of securing favourable contact provision over the Christmas period of 2018.
In many a case, it will be immediately obvious that no amicable agreement will be reached but then when proceedings are issued, are arrived at later down the line and when then the Court has given an indication as to what final orders it may be prepared to make, unless the parties themselves agree an Order.
At Prism Family Law, we have a well proven history and track record of securing favourable child arrangements, whether for Christmas, holiday’s, birthdays and other special occasions, for father’s and other relations including then grandparents.
With only 11 weeks to go to Christmas, don’t delay.
To discuss all options, we deliberately offer free 30-minute initial consultations to all potential clients and in the strictest of confidence.
Should you require the services of Prism Family Law for any family law related matter please do not hesitate to contact solicitor Andrew Wraith in the first instance.
You can call us on 0191 269 6871 or email us via [email protected].