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Christmas cheer...or Christmas conflict?

View profile for Sam Miles
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While Christmas is enjoyed by the majority of us as a time for family, friends and merriment, for some families it can be a time of conflict. In situations where parents are separated, arrangements need to be made for where the children will be spending Christmas, and without proper preparations in place, instead of wishing for the latest computer game in their stocking, children could simply be wishing for an argument free holiday. Sam Miles, Family Law Partner, here explains how you can make arrangements to ensure you and your children have the best Christmas possible this year.

“Separated parents must start thinking about how their children will spend their Christmas sooner rather than later to avoid the risk of last minute conflict,” begins Sam. “The best place to start is by talking to your children. Find out how they would like to spend their Christmas; after all, it is them that you’re making these arrangements for.”

Discussing these matters with your children can make them feel like they’re an important part of the family and not being told where they’re spending their time. “Listening to how they’re feeling will make them feel more settled during a time of change,” explains Sam. “If you are on bad terms with your former partner, it’s crucial that you don’t influence your child’s decision in any way. It may of course be the case that their idea of the perfect Christmas arrangement simply isn’t possible, and this could be for a number of reasons.   If this is the case, then discuss alternative options with your former partner, while considering what your child has expressed so their feelings aren’t hurt when the time comes for you explain to them why you haven’t been able to meet their wish.”

Having an arrangement in place that can be repeated each year would be the ideal situation. “This means that once the decision is made it will not need to be re-evaluated each year and it brings stability for the children,” continues Sam. “You may have the children with one parent for Christmas Day and the other parent for Boxing Day; or with one parent during the morning of Christmas Day and the afternoon with the other parent. You may also wish to alternate these arrangements; the important factor to agree on is what is best for your children and what will cause the least disruption.”

All of this will depend on the relationship with a former partner. “If you are on amicable terms then while these decisions will be difficult you should be able to discuss them without being reduced to arguments. However, for a couple who have split on difficult terms, or can not agree on children arrangements during the remainder of the year as well as during holidays, family mediation would be the best option,” explains Sam.

Family mediation is the ideal environment for two former partners to discuss any disagreements about children arrangements or financial planning for the future. The family mediator will listen to both parties, giving each person the opportunity to express their feelings and wishes before proceeding to a final decision that both parties are happy with.

“Mediation has proven success in resolving disputes between parents, meaning that both sides can move on with their lives, including their children,” continues Sam. “Some may be concerned that during mediation they won’t be heard, or their partner will control the sessions. This couldn’t be further from the truth and this is achieved by having the independent mediator to oversee matters. They will not take sides and have been specially trained to ensure that they are in control of the session throughout.”

Mediation is now a compulsory measure parents must take before applying to the Court for a family order. “Mediation Information Assessment Meetings were introduced last year by the Government as a compulsory step before approaching the family court in order to reduce the number of warring families,” concludes Sam. “Family mediation will result in a positive outcome faster than applying to court, it will invariably be cheaper and far less emotionally draining than fighting in front of a Judge, who is likely to rule in favour of one parent over the other or come up with their own arrangement which neither parent would have chosen. They will not take the time that a family mediator will to understand both sides. Going to court may not only bring around a result you didn’t want, but the impact on the children is devastating.”

If you are struggling to make arrangements for your children this Christmas and you would like to explore how family mediation can help you, then contact Sam on 02380 717431 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.