All I Want For Christmas is You – Christmas Contact Arrangements: The Knowhow
As the season to be jolly approaches, most have just one thought on their mind: family.
We all know Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and making happy memories, but this can be complicated in separated and blended families.
If you and your partner are separated and share children together, agreeing on child contact during the festive period can be a troublesome task to say the least. You may be forced to ask yourselves questions like, ‘How do we split the Christmas holidays?’ ‘Who takes the children?’ and ‘How long will they take the children for?’. Hopefully, the below information can guide you in the right direction to bright and cheerful Christmas yet to come. If it happened for Scrooge, it can happen for you.
First, we must ask, do you have a Child Arrangement Order (CAO)?
If you have a CAO in place, with luck, it already sets out provisions for holidays such as Christmas.
However, if the order is silent on this, Christmas arrangements can be agreed between partners by way of consent. This is the ideal situation because if parties can agree matters by way of consent, it saves the trouble of having to revert to the court, which can be extremely costly time consuming and stressful!
I don’t have a CAO, what is it? Who can apply for one? How do I get one?
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A Child Arrangement Order is a legally binding court order concerning where a child lives and who a child can have contact with.
Who can apply for a CAO?
Anyone who has Parental Responsibility for a child can apply, even if you’re not the biological parent. This includes:
- a parent, guardian, or special guardian.
- anyone who currently has Parental Responsibility for the child(ren).
For further advice on Parental Responsibility & Parental Rights, please see our blog Non-resident parent – what are my rights?
How do I get a CAO?
If you and your ex-partner have no formal agreement in place in respect of Child Arrangements and cannot agree on Christmas contact, then here is what you need to know.
If possible, reverting to the court should be avoided. If there’s already a longstanding informal agreement and you both are amicable, then there is no need to jingle those bells and complicate things by getting the court involved. instead, you can formalise your informal agreement through a Consent Order – this is a perfect chance to negotiate Christmas contact and come to an agreement.
‘What is a consent order?’, you ask? A Consent Order is an agreement negotiated out of Court that details the arrangements which parents have agreed. Subsequently, the order is submitted to the court and, once approved, becomes legally binding.
However, if everything can be agreed but Christmas contact, then parents should attempt mediation in hopes that they can come to an agreement.
Mediation can be done informally through family and friends or professionally through a certified mediator. The purpose of mediation is to come to an amicable agreement without the need of court intervention.
In the event that mediation fails, you may have no choice but to make an application to the court. The court will decide what is in the child’s best interests and, accordingly, form a Child Arrangement Order.
Can I get a Child Arrangement Order in time for Christmas?
According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, between April and June 2021 there were 66,357 new cases in the family courts – an increase of 14% for the same period in 2020, and an 11% increase in matters concerning children. As you can imagine, the courts are currently inundated with applications.
Bearing this in mind, it’s highly unlikely that your application will be issued, listed, and concluded in time for this Christmas. However, don’t lose your Christmas spirit – aforesaid you should aim to amicably co-parent and resolve matters by way of consent (if possible). It is Christmas, after all.
Here at RVS solicitors, our family specialists are here to assist you in obtaining a Child Arrangement agreement. They can assure that you get to spend quality time with your child all through the year. So, if your ex-partner is restricting contact or you need a formal agreement drafted, we’re here to help!