Child arrangements over the festive season: How families can negotiate tricky access plans
It is a good idea to start having discussions as early as possible. Agreeing arrangements early, even if you keep them flexible, will provide some certainty and allow all of you to enjoy the run up to Christmas with any difficult conversations out of the way.
Hussain says: “Don’t leave it to the last minute. There will be a lot to discuss in a short space of time. You may find the other parent has already made plans and will be unwilling to negotiate or cancel them to accommodate your last-minute requests.”
Communication between separated parents can be difficult. If you find it difficult talking to your ex-partner, consider asking a family member or friend to be present during the discussions. You should choose someone you both trust and get along with. Communication is key when it comes to child arrangements.
Listen to each other
It is very important you keep an open mind when having discussions with the other parent, even if you do not agree to what they are proposing. Take your time to listen to them and then put your proposals across. Hussain continues: “Both of you should be prepared to compromise to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of your child. A lack of willingness to compromise runs the risk of communication breaking down resulting in the need to seek assistance from a solicitor.”
Consider the child
It is best to stay focused on agreeing an outcome that works for everyone. When you are discussing plans, be mindful that your child may overhear you or perhaps see messages you are sending to the other parent. Try to remain calm and do not say bad things about each other in front of your child.
If your children are old enough, they may have their own views on how they want to spend their Christmas holidays. Hussain adds: “It is important to listen to your children and let them know that you are taking their opinions seriously. However, it is for the adults to decide the arrangements and not the child, so be mindful that you are not pressuring them in any way to choose. They might try to please you or become upset if they feel they are being unfair to the other parent.”
Put it in writing
When you reach an agreement, it is advisable to set this out in writing and email it to the other parent confirming the arrangement. This should also help to avoid any misunderstandings during the festive season, as you will have something to refer back to. If the other parent doesn’t agree to certain points, you will have enough time to discuss these issues and then amend the agreement if needed.
Hussain concludes: “When you have agreed arrangements, stick to them. Follow the hand-over times you have agreed and make sure you are conscious of how you speak to the other parent in front of your child. If you have any issues, address these later, such as after bedtime or by email or text.”
Morrish Solicitors’ family law services can be provided in-person, over the phone or by email or post. Call on 033 3344 9600 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, you can make an appointment at their head office in Leeds city centre, or one of the branches located at 51a High Street in Yeadon and at 9 Lowtown in Pudsey.