The Christmas period can be very difficult for the children of separated families particularly when their parents cannot agree on what arrangements are best for their children at the festive time of year.
Many families do work it out for themselves, however, if parents cannot agree the Court will have to intervene and impose Orders upon them.
As all families are different and what works for one family, might not necessarily work for another, it is always better for the children if their parents can resolve matters between themselves about living arrangements, including Christmas Day, rather than having a judge, who does not know the children, impose a regime upon the family.
The following are common solutions:
- Children with one parent from Christmas Eve until Christmas morning and with the other parent from prior to lunch on Christmas Day until Boxing Day.
This arrangement works well if the parents live relatively close together so that the children are not spending a large part of Christmas Day in the car.
This solution has the benefit of the children seeing both parents on Christmas Day. Commonly this arrangement alternates each year so the parents take in turns waking up with the children after Santa has been and delivered their presents.
This arrangement also works well if one parent’s tradition is to celebrate at Christmas Eve while the other tends to celebrate at Christmas lunch or Boxing Day. For those families, they might choose to keep the same arrangements every year.
- Children with one parent for the whole Christmas period one year and with the other parent for the whole period the following year.
This arrangement is more suitable if the parents do not live close to each other or for those who travel interstate or to regional areas to celebrate Christmas with extended family. However some parents (and of course their children) can find this arrangement particularly hard as they don’t see their children at all on Christmas Day
The advantage is that the children do not have to travel on Christmas Day and face a potentially uncomfortable handover between the parents. Again, usually this solution is one that would alternate each year so that the children get a chance to have Christmas Day with each parent each alternating year.
- Children with one parent at Christmas, but spending a few hours during the day with the other parent
This scenario is usually applied if there is a very young child involved as many experts recommend that very young children should not spend long periods of time (and/or overnight time) away from their primary carer. In most cases, this will only be an arrangement for a year or two with parents adopting one of the other possible solutions as the children grow older.
- No special arrangement for Christmas
There is no requirement to have special arrangements for Christmas if the parents agree or do not celebrate Christmas Day. If the parents do not want special arrangements for the Christmas period then they can just stick to their existing holiday arrangements.
These are just some of the possibilities. Parents should not leave it to the last minute to decide what is best for their children, so that plans are not made by two extended families without reference to the other.
The best arrangement for your children is the one that you can agree upon, because if the parents are happy, then the children will be happy, and everyone will get to enjoy Christmas Day.