As a family law firm we’re used to handling the emotional as well as legal ramifications of disputes. We advise on issues such as divorce, wills and probate and domestic violence, and we also have a well-established reputation as child custody solicitors.
Making arrangements for the custody of children after an arrangement breaks down is often a difficult and lengthy process. Even with the best will in the world, and the realisation that the welfare of the child or children in question is of paramount importance, the bitterness inherent in some relationship breakdowns can impact upon the process of arriving at a workable solution. That’s where our expertise as child custody solicitors comes to the fore. We can work toward a solution which satisfies all parties and minimises the distress caused, particularly to the children involved. In the majority of cases we aim to work toward an informal arrangement which, having been agreed by both halves of a couple, avoids the need to involve the courts. This is particular the case when dealing with the vexed issue of custody arrangements over the Christmas period.
The first and most important point to make when discussing Christmas arrangements for children is that it’s almost never too early to sit down and make an agreement. People often find that the rush of Christmas commitments is upon them before they’ve decided where their children are going to be spending the day, and keeping the discussions calm and reasonable is always going to be more difficult when facing a looming deadline.
Another key piece of advice we often give is to try to communicate in a calm and reasonable manner, avoiding allowing the emotions of the issue to come to the fore. If this is likely to be difficult in a face to face meeting then perhaps it would be wiser to have the discussion via a medium such as email, or even through an impartial third party such as a solicitor. It’s also vital to take the Christmas experience of the children into consideration when reaching any agreement. If the parties involved live close to each other then sharing Christmas day itself might be a practical option, or alternating between having custody for the whole of Christmas Day and then Boxing Day. This ‘alternate’ pattern can also be applied to the whole of the Christmas period if the two parties live at a greater distance from each other; spending Christmas one year with one parent and the next year with the other can alleviate the problem of children spending most of the period being transported from place to place.
No matter what the details of your individual situation are, we’ll use our expertise as child custody solicitors to ensure that you remain aware of your rights and responsibilities throughout, as well as using our experience to guide you through the common pitfalls of the situation. Although we would always recommend a mutually agreed arrangement this isn’t always possible, and if options such as mediation or solicitor-led negotiation fail to break the impasse, it may well be necessary to apply for a court application. It should be emphasised that this is very much a last resort, as it will place the final decision in the hands of a judge and will involve the kind of cost and stress which most people would prefer to avoid, particularly during the festive period. In the event of an application, the court will decide what is in the best interests of the children, often with reference to the Children’s Act 1989. Amongst the issues which they will consider will be the following:
- the feelings and wishes of the child in question, bearing in mind their age and ability to understand the situation
- the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child
- the likely impact of any change in circumstances
Besides these will be more wide ranging issues such as the ability of each parent and/or relevant carer to look after the child and whether the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering any harm. As can be seen, many of these questions are relatively vague and open to interpretation, which makes predicting the result of any such court application difficult, yet another reason why we would always advise sets of parents to reach a joint decision in a less stressful environment, and one in which they are far more in control of the proceedings.
If you’d like to speak to one of our expert child custody solicitors about the issues surrounding the custody of children over Christmas, then please get in touch with us. The sooner the process begins, the more likely it is that a satisfactory conclusion will be reached before the festive season itself. You can start this process by calling us on 0161 429 7251 or emailing us at [email protected]. You’ll receive an initial 20 minute appraisal free of charge and the details of our other charges, including a fixed fee first appointment, can be found here.