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Separated Co-parenting and Christmas: Top Tips

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Too early to talk about the “C” word? Perhaps not.

This year has been unique and difficult for most people and arrangements for the festive period are undoubtedly going to put up new hurdles for many people to overcome – so planning is essential.

Lockdowns are something that we are all learning to live with, but there are some instances where parents have used the situation as a way to manipulate child contact arrangements. This is a time where parents should be trying to work together to decide the arrangements for their children; not dictating, withholding, or even worse, manipulating their children to cause upset or “punish” the other parent.

There are thankfully many other parents that are working well together and effectively communicating, in terms of listening and understanding the concerns of each other. This is how parents should aim to behave in these unprecedented times (provided that there are no safety concerns), otherwise their behaviour will undoubtedly cause upset and in the worst cases, emotional abuse to the children.

Many people with children are starting to think about the arrangements for Christmas. The guidance from The President of the Family Division’s Guidance continues to provide that ‘The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other’. Parents are urged to communicate and reach agreement, and that ‘where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.’

So, how should you try to resolve the arrangements for the Christmas period?

  1. Communicate. This is the best piece of advice you can be given. If you do not feel able to talk to the other parent, open lines of communication in other ways. Perhaps a friend or family member can assist? Try putting your thoughts down in an email? Consider mediation using a trained family mediator to assist in aiding discussions.
  2. Listen. Parenting is a two way street, so be prepared to listen and take on board the other parent’s views.
  3. Plan ahead. Do not leave sorting out the arrangements until the last minute. Give yourself time to tackle any difficulties that you might encounter.
  4. Be flexible. The best laid plans sometimes go wrong. That’s life. Do not be unyielding.
  5. Compromise. Reaching agreement is undoubtedly best for your children.
  6. Do not dictate. As tempting as it may be, do not tell the other parent when they can see the children or when you are having the children. This will cause resentment and ultimately the arrangements will be doomed to fail.
  7. Be respectful. If you can have respectful communication the children will know and will greatly benefit. They will be much happier moving between homes.
  8. Seek help. Do not be afraid to seek external support if you need it. Instructing a solicitor to help with legal issues is sometimes necessary. If arrangements really cannot be agreed a Court application may be necessary, but only as an absolute last resort. Also think about emotional hurdles you may need to overcome. There are fantastic counsellors and coaches out there that can assist.
  9. Be child focused. Put the children first and consider their needs ahead of your own. Children are undoubtedly affected when their parents are in sustained conflict. If you cannot find a way forward, seek help from an objective third party who may assist in bringing the clarity you need.
  10. Accept that nobody is perfect. Including you! Parents may occasionally lose their cool and not be their best self. Do not let that define your relationship. Provided it is not a regular occurrence, apologise or accept an apology and move on.

The above tips are not exhaustive and really apply to separated co-parenting generally; whether there is a global pandemic or not. Parents should communicate (provided that there are no safety concerns), let the children be children, the parents be parents and make joint parental decisions. Children greatly benefit from having a healthy and positive relationship with both parents; particularly when those parents are working together.

Here’s hoping you have a healthy and stress free Christmas.

If you require assistance from the Family law team call 0800 088 6004.