Although children are enjoying the festive period, this time of year may cause anxiety for parents.

If you have not been able to reach an agreement with your ex-partner over what contact you will be having with your children over the Christmas and New Year you may feel uneasy at the thought of the weeks ahead.

If there are no Court Orders in place as to any contact arrangements, unfortunately there is nothing preventing the other parent from withholding contact.

The departure from term time routine can make it difficult for parents to come to a decision particularly when both parents have plans or are working.

Here we provide some useful tips on how to best prepare to avoid disagreements over contact during the festive period.

1. Plan arrangements in advance

Try to come to an agreement well in advance if possible. Talking to one another about your plans may also assist you with planning trips away with your children or if you plan to see your extended family.

Whilst you do not need the consent of your ex-partner to take the children on holiday within England and Wales, you should keep one another informed to maintain a positive co – parenting relationship. If you are planning to take the children abroad and there is no child arrangements order in place, consent from the other parent is required regardless of the duration of the holiday.

It is not advisable to book a holiday abroad for Christmas with your child unless your ex-partner has given written consent. Consent can be given verbally however it is difficult to prove should a dispute arise. Therefore, to avoid any doubt it is recommended written consent is provided. It is sensible to take the written evidence of consent with you to the airport in case questions are asked, particularly if your child does not share your surname. If you take your child abroad without consent this would be classed as child abduction and you could face serious consequences.

2. Flexibility

During term time it is easier to stick to a schedule of contact around the times that the children attend school or extra-curricular activities. Outside of term time it may be difficult to plan a fixed schedule of contact due to the parents’ work schedule or other commitments.  In order to remain amicable and ensure contact goes ahead without any fall outs you should remain flexible in the event that of last minute changes. Bear in mind that it may be you that needs the flexibility.

3. The children’s best interests

It is in the child’s best interest to have contact with both parents, where possible. It can however be difficult to put your feelings to one side if you are no longer on speaking terms with your ex-partner. This can have a major impact on agreeing child contact arrangements. During discussions regarding contact always ensure that you are referring back to what would be in the children’s best interest and that you are being fair. You may feel upset if you are not seeing your child on Christmas Day, but do not let your emotions cloud your judgement.

4. No hope of reaching an agreement?

If you are unable to agree contact arrangements or your partner refuses to give you consent to take your child abroad on holiday you have the following options :

  • Mediation
  • Negotiation through solicitors
  • Apply to the Court for an Order. This could be in the form of a prohibited steps order, specific issue order or child arrangements order.

An application to Court should be the last resort. Court proceedings can be costly and lengthy and an application would need to be made well in advance of the contact/holiday taking place in order to give the Court time to list the matter and come to a decision.

If the Court grant a Child Arrangements Order this will clearly set out what contact should take place over the holidays now and in the future.

If you are a parent and you are concerned about holiday arrangements with your child, you should seek specialist legal advice from an experienced family solicitor.