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Less than 2 months to go: how to proactively resolve Christmas child arrangements disputes

Now is the time to start finalising arrangements for the children and how they will share their time with the other parent over the Christmas period.

Although it may not be time just yet to put the sprouts on, if you are one of the 2.9 million lone parent families in the UK, now is the time to start finalising arrangements for the children and how they will share their time with the other parent over the festive period.

For many families, Christmas is the most important holiday of the year, a celebration where the focus is upon the child and the creation of memories that may last a lifetime.

Significant numbers of children each year, however, find themselves caught up in family breakdowns and in the months leading up to Christmas the family courts become inundated with applications to resolve child arrangements. For many, even now, the courts will be unable to accommodate anything other than the most urgent matters before the Christmas period and so what can parents to do?

The alternative

The courts have increasingly seen joint parenting decisions as the best way for parents to bring up their children, the view being that parents need to take a constructive approach to resolve their issues in a sensible way that suits the children, rather than the adults.

The report published by the Family Solutions Group entitled ‘What about me?’ addressed the need for ‘fresh and focused attention’ to improve the experiences of and opportunities for separating families away from the Family Court. Commenting upon the report, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, said that it should be a matter of concern for society to achieve better co-parenting between separated couples. He noted that where there are no issues of domestic violence or child protection, parents should be encouraged to make arrangements for their own child rather than applying to the court to resolve the issues.


Consideration should always be given to mediation as a means of helping separated couples to swiftly resolve disputes particularly when it comes to resolving arrangements for children.

Mediators are trained to help parents improve their communication. They are able to arrange meetings with the parents within a timeframe compatible with the issues in dispute and help them identify solutions that achieve lasting resolutions.


If you are unable to use mediation, consider family arbitration.

Arbitration allows the parties to appoint a private judge to adjudicate their case. This process allows for more flexibility, is quicker than going to court and also allows parties to choose their own arbitrator/judge. The process can be adapted to suit the needs of the parties; both parties will put their arguments to the arbitrator who will reach a decision which will then be binding and subsequently recorded in a court order.

Top tips

Here are our top tips for parents and grandparents when making plans for Christmas arrangements with the other parent:

  • Remember - Christmas is a time for children: put yourself in their shoes and think about who they would like to see and how they can spend fun time with all of you.
  • Keep any disagreements away from them. Make a point of being nice or at least civil towards each other, remembering that this is the season of goodwill to all.
  • Discuss arrangements as early as possible and try to listen to each other’s opinions and ideas.
  • Compromise is key and prepare to be festively flexible. Remember that Christmas Day is only one day in a year and rather than argue over the day itself, think about alternating the day as well as the enjoyment to be had in the lead up to it.
  • Whilst it may not be possible to follow past traditions, seize the opportunity to build and create new traditions.

At Weightmans, our mediators are specialists in successfully handling the most complex and challenging of child arrangement disputes.

For assistance with a dispute involving children, speak to our expert child law solicitors. Visit our mediation page for more information on family mediation.