When parents separate one of the main issues of conflict relates to arrangements for the children. I am often contacted by distressed parents who are unable to reach an agreement with their former partner as to the weekly arrangements for their children and, often disputes flare up around annual events such as birthday’s, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, the summer holidays and Christmas.
Both parents are likely to want to spend time with their children on special occasions, and many have the outside influence of other family members to contend with, or the worry of breaking family traditions. The stress and uncertainty can and does lead to arguments but it is possible to avoid the worst of the upset and disappointment. From my experience as a family lawyer working with couples over many years the approach below can really help.
Leaving arrangements to the last minute will cause upset and stress for all involved, but most importantly your children. It is understandable that each parent wants to spend the special day with their children, especially if this is the first year where the family will be apart. However, if parents really think about how their children feel and put themselves in their child’s shoes they commonly agree that children are often happy to have two Christmas days or two birthdays. All they want is to enjoy a happy day with mum, and a happy day with dad.
Keep the children informed
Once you have given thought to and agreed the best plan for the children, tell them. Research has confirmed that children are most upset when they do not know what is happening during the midst of their parent’s divorce or separation, or are not told about the agreed arrangements. The children need to be involved and know exactly what is planned so they worry less. It also helps for them to know the arrangements are agreed – the children are then less likely to worry about either parent being sad or unhappy.
Come to an agreement
If you are struggling to reach agreements which allow you to spend time with your children on a regular basis or at special times during the year, then you can act to resolve this. The best way is always to try to communicate with the other parent to see if you can reach an agreement by mutual consent. As your child’s parents, you know better than anyone what is best for them. However, if communication has broken down and an agreement cannot be reached then a Resolution accredited lawyer may be able to assist you to negotiate an agreement fairly and amicably via correspondence and this is the best way to resolve matters so you get to spend time with your child quickly.
If an ex is being obstructive, there are three options you can consider:
- Write a letter now to your former partner (assuming you cannot speak to them directly) and set out your proposals for contact over the Christmas or holiday period. If you can, suggest specific times for collection and return. Allow them time to consider the matter and get back to you. Just because they have not replied instantly does not mean contact cannot be sorted. On the other hand, don’t leave it to the last minute to chase up. As an alternative you can ask your solicitor to write a letter instead, as this is sometimes taken more seriously but beware, it can be inflammatory too.
- If you don’t think a letter will help, consider family mediation. This can work even if you have already separated. You will communicate directly with a former partner with a trained mediator present to assist you and help guide you towards a mutual agreement. Obviously, both parties must attend and be prepared to negotiate, but it is a preferred option for many as it can be relatively quick and cost effective if you just can’t sort it out on your own.
- Court proceedings should always be a last resort. They are time consuming and costly and you can never have a 100% guarantee that you will get exactly what you want. As you may expect, you need a bit of time to go down this road.
If agreement is impossible and you decide you need professional help any of the team at Woolley & Co will be able to help and advise.
Divorce & Family Lawyer, St Neots