Childcare arrangements at Christmas

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For many, the Christmas period is for spending quality time together as a family. However, if parents have recently separated or are struggling to agree on child arrangements after separation or divorce, Christmas can be a challenging and stressful time.

How do separated parents split time with children over Christmas?

For those who agree on childcare arrangements after separation or divorce, coming up with a plan as to who gets to spend Christmas with who should be relatively straightforward and in keeping with existing arrangements. However, if there are already issues over child contact or arrangements, or the mention of Christmas plans has caused a rift between parents, it can be slightly more challenging.

One of the key things to remember is that disputes can have a huge impact on children, and so their welfare and wellbeing should be prioritised above all else. It’s also important to remember to communicate with the other parent. If you do not feel you can share your wishes or concerns face to face, consider written communications such as email to avoid adding any extra emotion into the mix. If you are unable to communicate because there is an order in place, a family solicitor can provide you with advice to help both parties to come to a formal arrangements. This may involve compromise, so be prepared to alter your plans and take a step back to appreciate the other party’s wishes.

What happens if parents can’t agree on childcare arrangements?

If you cannot agree on child arrangements with your former partner, mediation is a good option and should be considered as your next step. Family mediation is where a trained independent mediator helps two parties to work out arrangements concerning childcare, finances or property, outside of court.

Before making a family court application, you must now show that you have attended a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless you have a valid exemption. Following the MIAM, it could be decided that your matter is suitable for further mediation, rather than having to go to court.

The Government recently extended the mediation voucher scheme, which provides eligible individuals a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation. However, this voucher cannot be used towards the MIAM, which will cost around £90 per person. The Mediation Information Assessment Meeting will need to be paid for from your own funds, unless you are eligible for Legal Aid.

To find out more about mediation, call our family law solicitors. We can put you in touch with our recommended mediators and explain more about how the process works.

What happens if mediation doesn’t work?

If mediation does not work for you, you should contact an expert family lawyer as soon as possible. They will provide you with guidance on how to reach an agreement.

As a last resort, you can also apply to the court directly to ask for arrangements or an Order to be put in place. However, this is not a quick fix, and as the festive period nears, it is extremely unlikely that the court will be able to hear your matter before Christmas.

Our child law solicitors always recommend seeking mediation as a first step, followed by receiving advice and guidance from an experienced lawyer. Keeping family matters as civil as possible will reduce any extra stress and emotion around the Christmas period.

Which party pays for mediation?

It is advisable to have a mutual agreement of how you are going to pay for mediation. In most cases, each party pays their own costs, and this is usually how the fee would be initially quoted. However, sometimes parties agree to use a joint account to pay for mediation, or one party agrees to pay on the understanding that the cost will be deducted from a financial settlement, where relevant.

It is important to remember that mediation is usually much cheaper than going to court, so having an agreement about mediation fees is a better option than arguing about it or refusing to pay for it.

Do existing Child Arrangement Orders apply at Christmas?

Yes, Child Arrangement Orders apply at Christmas and all year round. However, they often include specific provisions for special holidays like Christmas. In the majority of cases, you should not prevent access to your child without seeking an order to vary or discharge the existing order. If you do not seek legal advice before preventing access, you could have to respond to enforcement court proceedings.

Contact our child contact solicitors in Bristol

When parents separate, it can be difficult to reach an agreement about childcare arrangements or contact. Our expert child law solicitors can help you to come to an agreement out of court, and, if necessary, obtain a Child Arrangement Order to ensure that you see your child on a regular basis.

For more information, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form. Alternatively, you can get started online here.

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