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How do I sort out when my children will spend time with me and my ex over Christmas and New Year?

The month of November brings Bonfire night, Black Friday and, for the organised amongst us, Christmas planning! The “to do” list no doubt comprises such delights as present buying, ordering the food, writing the Christmas cards, diarising a carol service but also, for some, sorting out the time the children will spend with each parent over the Christmas holidays.

For separated or divorcing couples working out which parent the children will be with at Christmas time can be particularly challenging. Existing family traditions commonly need to be set aside and new patterns established. Much will depend on practicalities like when the children break up from and return to school, when each parent may be working and where each parent now lives. There may be new partners who might also have children which means extra factors are brought into play.

How do my ex and I discuss the Christmas holiday arrangements? 

Understandably, discussing these arrangements just between the two of you can feel uncomfortable and/or be difficult. Sometimes exchanges can become heated and could damage your co-parenting relationship which is so important for the children’s welfare.

It can be helpful to have these conversations in family mediation, so you have a neutral mediator (or sometimes a team of two mediators) present to help you both navigate these discussions more constructively. If you have solicitors, they can join you for a mediation session or sessions to provide legal advice if needed in the mediation itself.

You may prefer to ask your solicitor to liaise with your ex or his/her solicitor on your behalf.  If you can still get together, though, to discuss matters face to face, in person or via virtual means, this usually is more productive.  You could, therefore, consider the collaborative process with you both and your solicitors meeting to help formulate a plan.

A neutral family consultant could also be involved into the mediation or collaborative process to help support you both.

If you would like more information about family mediation, the collaborative process, or need help or advice about a family law matter please contact Sarah French on 01962 841484 or