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What Are Your Parental Rights Over Christmas?

Divorce can be deeply upsetting and confusing for any family, but even more so at Christmas.  Parents may be unsure how best to put in place fair arrangements for their children and may struggle to come to an amicable arrangement with their ex-partner.  In this article, we will explain parental rights over the festive period, and what to do if you and your ex are at loggerheads over where your children will be over the festive season.

Split Families at Christmas

What is the law concerning child arrangements at Christmas?

When it comes to determining how to split access to children between divorced parents, there is no specific provision in law for the festive period, or indeed, any other time of year.  However, it is possible to include arrangements which have been agreed between parents within a Child Arrangement Order (CAO).  It is for this reason that planning ahead and making sure that this is discussed and documented when the CAO is first drafted is preferable. 

14 November 2019
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If you already have a CAO in place, you can apply to the Family Court, to request an amendment be made.  However, it is important to understand that parents are heavily encouraged by the Family Court to arrange matters between themselves.  If you are unable to agree, before asking the Court to decide for you, there are several proven methods which can be adopted to find a resolution.

How to Split Christmas Between Divorced Parents Outside of the Courts

Family law Solicitors are highly proficient in finding solutions to family matters without involving the Courts.  This serves many benefits, not least that doing so reduces any animosity felt between parents as a general approach of fairness, openness, and respect is adopted from the outset.  Court cases can naturally lead to a greater sense of tension and anger, neither of which are conducive to a positive outcome.  Family law practitioners affiliated with Resolution, a group of over 6,500 Solicitors specialising in family justice, are well versed in a range of dispute resolution methods which minimise conflict and focus the interests of the children involved, including arbitration, mediation, and lawyer negotiations.  Each of these options enable both parties wishes and concerns to be expressed and for a decision to be reached either by the parents themselves or by an impartial and balanced third-party (as in the case of arbitration).  Non-court resolution methods can also bring matters to a conclusion faster than relying on an application to the Courts – a key factor if time is of the essence.

Reaching an agreement on Divorced Parents & Christmas Arrangements

Finding a solution between parents inevitably requires compromise and fairness in the interests of all concerned.  While we may have a fixed idea of how the festive period should be celebrated, it is inevitable that following a divorce, a reconsideration of ideals may be required.  There is no single way by which time should be apportioned over Christmas, but some common options ways include:

  • Alternating Christmas day – children may spend the whole of Christmas day with one parent one year, with the other parent on the following year
  • Celebrate two Christmases – you may want to run this idea by Santa first, but you could come to an agreement that Boxing day is treated like a second Christmas day – again this could be alternated between parents each year.
  • Half a day with each parent – depending on travel distance.  It may be preferred to split Christmas day so that the morning is spent with one parent, and the afternoon with the other – this could also be alternated each year.

There may be other factors which need to be considered, including situations whereby one or both parents have new partners, children, or stepchildren.  Location may also impose limitations on what is possible and fair – i.e. if both parents live far from each other, or even in other countries, is it reasonable for a child to spend several hours travelling over the festive period?  And what if the weather is bad and travel is unsafe or not possible?  The age of the children should also be considered, as, if young, it may be their wish that Santa visits them in their main/family home.

Final Thoughts on Child Arrangements at Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time for any family split by divorce.  Finding a solution for child arrangements during this time requires early planning and consideration for the needs of the child/ren involved.  And that will be the position of the Court if they are asked to rule on an order.  The Courts will want to see that mediation has taken place (unless it is deemed inappropriate, for example, there has been domestic abuse), as this provides the ideal forum for reaching a consensus outside the often-heated judicial system.  If you need to bear in mind anything, it is this; put yourself in the child’s shoes and think of what they would want to happen over Christmas and let this guide your approach.  A positive and enjoyable Christmas, even if both parents are no longer together, can help children to heal and realise that happy family life is still possible.


Guillaumes LLP is a full-service solicitors in Weybridge, Surrey.  We have a highly experienced team of family solicitors who can assist you with all matters relating to child arrangement orders and family mediation services. Depending on your circumstances, our divorce solicitors may be able to help you.  To make an appointment, please contact us or call us on 01932 840 111