Contact at Christmas – How do separated parents split Christmas?

Contact at Christmas – How do separated parents split Christmas?

The festive season is (almost) upon us. One of questions that we are most frequently asked by parents who are separated, and trying to navigate the sometimes stormy seas of care arrangements, is what normally happens with children at Christmas?

There is no right answer to that question. Your family and friends might tell you what is normal, or what happened to them in a similar situation, but what works for one family may not work, for various reasons, for another. When considering any arrangements, the cross check is whether the arrangement is in the best interests of the children.

Christmas is perhaps the one time of year when, sometimes, the children themselves can become a bit forgotten about in the midst of parents’, wider family, and expectations of what Christmas should be. Indeed, for some parents (and other family members) the idea that they might not see their children on Christmas day is, understandably, difficult to come to terms with.

There are some propositions I would make that generally (but not always) apply:

  • Christmas day itself is a day that should be shared. That could mean that the day is split down the middle, with a handover taking place in the afternoon, or alternating which parent has Christmas day (and New Year) each year.
  • An arrangement that would require lengthy travel on Christmas day to facilitate a child spending part of Christmas day with both parents is generally not ideal.
  • Where extended family do not live locally, it is reasonable for a parent to want to take their child away to spend Christmas day with the extended family – and that might come at the expense of seeing both parents on Christmas day. In these situations, one would usually expect that the next Christmas would be spent with the parent who did not see the child on Christmas day.

In the event that you and your ex-partner cannot agree arrangements for Christmas between the two of you, there are a few options for you to explore before considering court intervention. Firstly, you might want to consider family mediation.

There are family lawyers who offer this service, but also organisations who operate under the banner of  Relationship Scotland (

You might also want to consider contacting a family lawyer, who in the first instance should try to help you resolve the dispute in an expeditious and child focussed way. If all other attempts fail, then the final remedy is court, as a last resort. Practically speaking – and whilst it’s only November – the issue of Christmas contact is already one that is being canvassed in courts now.

A warning would be therefore that in the absence of an agreement, you should not rely upon the court being able to resolve this for you at last minute. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law Team who would be happy to discuss your specific circumstances with you.

For more information please contact Edward Fitzgerald,  email  or telephone +44 (0)131 285 7842

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