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Co-Parenting during Christmas: How to Create a Harmonious Plan after Divorce

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Co-Parenting during Christmas: How to Create a Harmonious Plan after Divorce

With Christmas fast approaching, this is a time for families to come together. This, however, is not the case for separated parents, who face challenges when it comes to making child arrangements for the festive period. Indeed, this can often be a daunting prospect for many parents. There is no blueprint in terms of how the Christmas holidays should be divided. What may have worked the year before does not necessarily mean it will follow on to the next. Moreover, every family is different; each household will undoubtedly have differing expectations and needs/routines.

Although we may not have a set of rules for child arrangements during the Christmas holidays, the guiding principle of family law is always a good starting point. The principle is simple- the child or children's wellbeing comes first. The law also says that it is the child’s right to see both parents if they so wish, not the other way around. Accordingly, there should not be an expectation from one parent that they have more of a right to spend time with their child during the Christmas holidays over the other.

Common Christmas Co-Parenting Issues

Some of the most common issues that often arise between parents are as follows:

  • Christmas presents

  • Arrangements for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day 

  • Handovers and times

  • Indirect contact, i.e., telephone/video calls

  • Child(ren) seeing extended family, including grandparents

  • Child(ren) seeing new partners

  • Trips within the UK/holidays abroad

  • Arrangements for the following year

Unless you and the other parent are spending Christmas together with the children, you will need to compromise/set your differences aside and ultimately put the child first, particularly if you want to divide the Christmas holidays amicably, which, in turn, minimises conflict and resentment.

Options for Co-Parenting Arrangements at Christmas

If an agreement has not been reached, there are a number of options available to you, which are as follows

  1. Dividing the days in half, the child can spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, changing to the other parent at midday, in turn, allowing the child to spend the remainder of Christmas Day and Boxing with the other parent. This can alternate each year to ensure fairness.

  2. Diving the two-week holidays equally - the child can spend the first half of the holidays with one parent and the second with the other. This means the child gets to spend Christmas with one parent and New Year with the other. As with the first option, this arrangement can and should alternate every year to ensure the child also spends Christmas with the other parent. 

  3. Two Christmases - the child celebrates Christmas twice; once on Christmas Day with one parent and once on an agreed day before or after Christmas Day with the other. Again, this can alternate every year.

  4. Spending Christmas with other parent and the children - if you and the other parent remain on good terms and are content with spending Christmas Day together with the children, this is another viable option. However, consideration should be given to other factors, e.g., partners and whether this is beneficial for the child in the long run. 

Option two or three may suit you best if you and the other parent live far apart.

Addressing Disagreements: Mediation and Legal Options

Should an agreement regarding the arrangements prove impossible, you should consider referring the matter to mediation. The mediator will seek to facilitate agreement but cannot give legal advice, nor can they decide about anything which is in dispute between you and the other parent. Much, therefore, depends upon the personality of you and the other partner and your willingness to compromise to reach an agreement and thereby avoid court proceedings. The obvious advantage is that it can be much quicker and cheaper than formal legal proceedings. If mediation were to prove unsuccessful, your next option would be to start court proceedings or attempt arbitration.

Our family solicitors all offer a free initial 15 minute telephone appointment to discuss your needs. If you are experiencing difficulties regarding the Christmas holidays with the other parent, we can help. I can be contacted on 01245 453866 or via email at

The contents of this blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this blog.