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Sleigh-bells ring, are you … worried about contact this Christmas?

No-one likes mentioning the ‘C’ word in September, although the usual high street suspects are already filling their aisles with gifts, wrapping paper and tinsel. Maybe it’s the particularly gloomy weather, however it’s not unusual for the 25th of September to prompt a number of calls from parents, worried about arrangements for their children over the festive season.

Why is this? Christmas is traditionally a time of family gatherings. Parents’ own fond memories of childhood Christmases, and the wish to provide their own children with the same happy experience, mean that for separated parents, the festive season brings the more negative aspects of their divorce or separation into sharp focus.

As family lawyers (with families of our own) we are very sensitive to this difficult issue. I am more and more convinced that the blunt instrument that is the court process, particularly where children are concerned, should be used only as a last resort. As each family is unique, the approach to family law and resolving children issues must be creative, child-focused and above all, fair to all concerned.

Traditionally, parents who simply can’t agree on Christmas arrangements will have imposed on them, by largely unsympathetic judges, alternate Christmases. How else is the court to resolve such a dispute fairly? It sounds obvious, but it is worth saying that to avoid this, parents must set aside their issues and focus on what is best for the children … in good time for Father Christmas to know where to deliver their presents.

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