When a couple separate it can be challenging for parents to agree on what they feel is best for their children. For some the festive period can be difficult, particularly if it is the first Christmas since the separation. Here are our co-parenting tips to help you through the festive season:
Tip 1 – Know what your parental rights and responsibilities are
Your responsibilities are:
- to look after and promote your child’s health, development and welfare
- to provide your child, with direction and guidance
- to keep in contact with your child on a regular basis
- to act as your child’s legal representative
Your rights are:
- to have your child living with you or decide where they should live
- to participate in your child’s upbringing
- if your child is not living with you to keep in touch with your child
Tip 2 – Know who has Parental rights and responsibilities
If a child’s parents are married, then both parents automatically have the same rights and responsibilities. The only instance this would not be the case, would be if the court has made an order to remove them. A child’s mother automatically has PRRs. If the child’s parents are not married, the father only has PRRs if the birth was after May 2006, and he is named on the child’s birth certificate or if there is a separate formal agreement between the parents or a Court order.
Tip 3 – Listen to your child’s views on Christmas
When making any decision about your child you should ask what they would like. Your decision should be based on what is best for them and their views are part of that process. A child for these purposes is defined as aged under 16, and the older they are the more weight is given to their views. While their views are not determinative, they should be taken into account.
Tip 4 – Be prepared to Communicate
Good communication between separated parents is key to reaching an agreement. Parents should discuss and agree what is best for their child at Christmas time. Should the children spend equal time between both homes, or perhaps wake up in one home and have Christmas dinner in the other? Is your child able to cope with the excitement of two Christmases in one day? Would it be better to spread it over two days? The age of the child or children; travelling distance; Santa; the tiredness and excitement levels of your child all need to be considered.
It is important for parents to discuss and agree a plan for Christmas Day with adequate time to get it sorted as far in advance as possible.
Tip 5 – Be prepared to Co-operate
Although it can be difficult to co-operate with the other parent following a separation, it is important to put your child first and show them that you can communicate, as well as stick to the agreed arrangements. Parents should try to put their differences aside and think about the needs of their child/children. No one, adult or child, wants Christmas to be negatively affected by the difficult and fraught discussions around the arrangements.
The more parents are able to co-operate, the more reasonable they seem to the other parent. This helps to build trust, which informs and benefits future decision making beyond the festive period.
Tip 6 – Be prepared to Compromise
It is important that both parents are willing to compromise. Ultimately, the law is not concerned about what is ‘fair’ or ‘equal’ for the parents, it is only concerned about the welfare of your child/children.
It is often the case that each parent would like to spend Christmas Day with the child. Both parents know that there is no magic formula to resolve this predicament, both parents need to work together to determine a fair outcome. This is likely to involve compromise by both at some stage – if not in relation to this Christmas, then perhaps in relation to future Christmases and there is a lot of benefit in the certainty of a set plan moving forward. Alternate Christmas days may be the way forward that suits your child, yourself, and your separated partner.
Tip 7 – Seek legal support if needed
We understand these discussions are very difficult and if you are unable to reach an agreement, we can offer guidance and support. Please speak to one of our Family Law Team to talk through your options.