Child arrangements during Christmas
After the past two years, time with loved ones has never felt so important, but for separated parents Christmas can be a time of tension, as plans need to be agreed about where and how children will spend the festive season. So how do you agree on arrangements for children during Christmas?
We asked our Regional Director for Yorkshire, Rachel Roberts, to share her advice on child arrangements during Christmas.
Child arrangements and Christmas
As we approach Christmas, we see a flurry of clients getting in touch for help to try and resolve arrangements for the festive season.
Before I turn to my tips on how best to manage arrangements, there are a couple of key points from the Government and family law sector that are certainly at the forefront of my mind when advising clients.
Last year, a leading family judge made it clear that parties should only be bringing disputes over children to court where absolutely necessary. The judge went on to criticise parents for asking the court to micro-manage children arrangements. The view from the court is clear – where possible you should be sorting these things out yourself.
The Government have said that further lockdowns are unlikely and have been clear that restrictions do not prevent children from moving between separated parents, provided they are not self-isolating.
It seems unlikely that this will change, and CAFCASS (the government body that advises the court on children disputes) has stressed the need for children to maintain their usual routine.
All that said, it is naive to think that difficulties will not arise, and the following guidance may help avoid unhappiness at Christmas.
Tips for making child arrangements during Christmas
Preparation is key
With the added uncertainty of another Christmas during the pandemic, trying to put in place arrangements for Christmas in advance is tricky.
If you do not have plans in place, now is the time to start. Talk to your ex-partner and agree on arrangements that work for you all.
Some clients I have worked with agreed that the children would spend Christmas Eve at one home and then return to the other for lunch on Christmas Day.
Other clients decided that they would spend the whole festive period with one parent and the next year spend it with the other, alternating between the two.
It is a personal choice based on what works for your family, but also the age of the children, location and how amicable you are.
Be prepared to be flexible as plans may need to change.
Focus on the children
First and foremost, put the children at the heart of the plans you make. A different type of Christmas can still be a good Christmas. Talk about the positive: two Christmas Days, two sets of presents etc.
Make sure you share your plans with the children. Depending on the age of the children, ask them what they would like? Older children need to feel they have a voice.
Once in place, sharing plans with the children means they know where they will be throughout the holiday, and the routine will make them feel safe and secure.
Creating a visual plan can help as dates can be difficult for a child to understand. One client created a Christmas themed wall planner for their younger children. A tech-savvy teenager may prefer a joint Google calendar.
Be fair to the other parent
If this is your first year as a separated parent, this will all feel very raw and difficult. It is likely that you will both be dreading not spending Christmas entirely with your children.
Even though it can be difficult, try to think about the impact of any plans on your former partner. Ask yourself if you would be happy with the proposed arrangements next year? If the answer is no, then maybe they should be reconsidered.
Stick to the plan
This year may require a certain level of flexibility, but where possible, it is important that, whatever arrangements you come to, you both stick to the plan.
Last-minute changes can cause feelings of disruption and uncertainty for children. And, whilst flexibility is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain consistency and provide stability.
Get advice early, if needed
Christmas is chaotic and organising a co-parenting schedule on top of everything else is never going to be easy, especially if communication between you and your ex-partner is difficult.
If you are struggling this year, take advice from a family lawyer who can try to assist in negotiating an agreement.
If you cannot reach an agreement, mediation can help as the presence of a 3rd party often eases tensions and result in finding common ground.
Mediation is still taking place via video conferencing, and many of our clients have reported that it is easier than being in the same room as their former partner.
Court proceedings are possible but should be used as a last resort, and, due to the current strain on courts from the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that you have any prospect of a contested hearing before Christmas.
Hopefully, these tips, combined with some careful planning, compromise and putting the children first, will help you and your ex-partner move forward towards a harmonious Christmas.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice on child arrangements during Christmas, or other family law issues, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.
This article was first published in 2018 and has since been updated. More
Child arrangements during Christmas
Parallel parenting is a method used by divorced or separated parents who wish to continue to parent their children in parallel, whilst agreeing to limit contact and interaction with each other. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, or where communication is extremely difficult.
Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
5 Tips for Parallel Parenting
Rebuilding your life when a relationship ends and healing from any emotional trauma you’ve experienced is difficult enough. Even when you’re ex was abusive, sometimes it’s impossible to cut ties for the sake of your child.
What is parallel parenting?
Whilst co-parenting works by cooperation and continued communication, for some it gives your ex-partner the opportunity to continue to mistreat you. Instead, parallel parenting increases safety in challenging relationships by deliberately keeping communication to a bare minimum.
While major decisions can be agreed upon together, each parent adapts their parenting method when the child is in their care. It allows you to distance yourself from your ex without depriving your child of a parent and sets clear boundaries that prevent further abuse or conflict.
The aim is to facilitate emotional healing from the relationship while prioritising your child’s needs and protecting them from conflict.
To give you the best start after divorce, here’s 5 tips for parallel parenting.
1. Create a parenting plan
It’s best to plan ahead to avoid disagreements. The more prepared you are and the more detailed the plan is, the less you’re likely to argue with your ex and the more minimal the contact is. Minimise stress for your child and ensure your safety by agreeing as much as you can in advance, including:
Agreeing timing of visits, including dates and start and end times, in writing.
Establish how to handle cancellations, and when and how they should be communicated.
Consider how often the child will see each parent?
Who will attend your child’s functions or doctor visits?
Agree who will drop them off and pick them up?
Plan ahead to decide where your child will spend their holidays and birthdays?
Choose a neutral location or even ask a family member or a trusted friend to pick your child for you.
Set out financial responsibilities, and dos and don’ts.
You can figure out logistics using email or another form of communication that doesn’t involve meeting face to face.
2. Let yourself heal
Ideally, after separating from an abusive ex-partner, you’d cut contact and never see them again. But when there are children involved, this is not always possible to eliminate them from your life completely. When some form of contact must remain, prioritise fulfilling your needs as well as supporting your child. Incorporate self-care into your routine to reduce stress and reconnect with your self. The best way to deal with the situation is by moving forward, so when you’re ready to, concentrate on your long-term goals. Focus on building resilience and reintroducing happiness to your life.
3. Accept the current situation
Parallel parenting, and maintaining some contact with an abusive or difficult ex-partner after you’ve chosen to divorce, can be very challenging. It’s natural to struggle with negative emotions such as guilt, regret, shame and anger, and feeling as though things aren’t fair. You may find it hard to accept that your ex is still a parent to your child. Try to practice acceptance. Things are the way they are and all you can do is make the best out of the situation. Focus your energy on parenting your child and providing them with all the love and support they need.
4. Keep communication to the minimum
Only communicate with your ex when it’s necessary. Agree to contact them via email or use a parenting app, and document every interaction. Keep your communication impersonal and matter of fact, discussing only topics that relate to your child and sharing no personal information or detail. Try not to let your ex provoke you or use your child as a messenger. It can be difficult not to ruminate on the relationship whenever an email pops up or whenever your child is spending time with them. Try to distance yourself and treat interaction with your ex as a business that’s necessary to keep your child happy.
5. Appoint a mediator
If there’s a lot of resentment between you and your ex, or your safety might be compromised, it’s a good idea to appoint a professional mediator. Mediation helps divorced parents to align their intentions and focus on their shared priority, the child. With the help of mediation, divorced parents can make well-informed decisions, reduce conflict, and set out an effective and mutually beneficial plan for all members of the family.
Parallel parenting can be challenging and confusing, and the details of an arrangement will depend on the individual situation. Consider getting advice from a professional.
If you need help and support with parallel parenting you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
Family Law Advice
If you are in an abusive or high-conflict relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers. More
As family lawyers, we are experienced in dealing with adoption law and trained to manage the legal process. This national Adoption Week we want to explain who is eligible to adopt and look at what the process involves when adopting a child, to simplify the journey and help you be well-informed from the outset.
Can I adopt a child in England and Wales?
First off, who can adopt a child in England or Wales? To qualify you must be over 21 and happy to make space in your life and home for a child.
Now let us dispel some myths, you CAN adopt if,
You are married, living together, in a civil partnership, opposite-sex couple, same-sex couple or single
Employed or on benefits
Any ethnic or religious background
Have children or not
Own your home or live in rented
Already adopted a child
If you are disabled
You are not a British citizen (although you must have a fixed and permanent home here and lived here for at least a year before you begin the application process)
What is the process of adopting a child?
To adopt a child, you must go through an agency, either one that is part of your local council or a voluntary adoption agency. (See links at the end of the article).
The agency will supply information, meet with you to assess your suitability, explain the process and provide the application form.
Once you have applied there will be a full assessment of you (and partner if involved) including:
Social worker visits on a number of occasions to assess your suitability to become adoptive parents
Police checks (You will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence, for example against a child.)
A full medical examination
Three personal references. One can be a relative.
You will also need to attend a series of preparation classes, often held locally.
What is the adoption panel?
Your social worker will prepare and send the assessment report to an independent panel who are experienced in adoption. They will make a recommendation based on your assessment.
This recommendation will be sent to your chosen agency and they will decide if you are suitable to adopt or not.
If approved, the agency will work with the local authority to start the process of finding a child.
How do they match you with a child?
After matching potential adoptive parents with a child, the suitability of the situation for the child and parents will be discussed between the agencies involved. A matching panel will make the final decision.
When does the adopted child move into the family home permanently?
Once a child has been matched with an adoptive parent/s, the process of moving in is taken, understandably, very slowly. There are a series of visits and stays, supported by your social worker to make the transition as comfortable as possible before moving in permanently.
How is adopting a child made legal?
Before a child moves in, Social Services need to obtain a Placement Order (unless the biological parents have consented). This order gives Social Services the power as an adoption agency to place a child with a chosen adopter (you).
Once the relationship is working well under the Placement Order and the child has been living with you for at least 10 continuous weeks, steps are taken to get an Adoption Order.
What is an Adoption Order?
The effect of an Adoption Order is to make the adopters the legal parents of the child. The biological parents lose their parental status as a result of this Order, so it is an important step that requires careful thought.
If the child has been placed with you under a Placement Order, then their biological parents are not allowed to oppose an Adoption Order without permission from the Court.
In some cases, the biological parents may try to prevent the Adoption Order from happening, but you would know well in advance if that was going to be a risk. The biological parents will be told about a hearing for an Adoption Order even if they are not allowed to challenge it, and so you can be anonymous on your application.
In most cases, the adopters do not attend the first hearing in case there are any problems with the biological parents, and instead typically attend when the order is granted.
Once the Court is satisfied that adoption is the best option for the child, an Adoption Order is granted and the Court confirms that you are the parents of your adopted child.
What are your next steps:
If you would like to find out more about the legal process of adopting a child you can get in touch with our adoption team.
You can also download our Adoption Guide.
Voluntary adoption agency finder: www.cvaa.org.uk/thinking-about-adoption/find-your-nearest-agency
Apply through a local authority agency: www.gov.uk/apply-to-adopt-child-through-council
The charity Adoption UK runs a helpline: www.adoptionuk.org/helpline More
At one time, or another, we have all seen a shocking headline which relates to surrogacy. Just last week there was an article in the Guardian online entitled “US couple withdraws legal action against ABC over claim they abandoned surrogate child with a disability”. In this instance the US couple, who had embarked upon a surrogacy arrangement in the Ukraine in 2015, took issue with their portrayal in an episode of Australian current affairs program Foreign Correspondent aired in 2019 and entitled ‘Motherland’, and a website article titled ‘Damaged babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trial of disasters’.
The intended father, Etnyre, was also the biological father of the child born through the surrogacy arrangement in the Ukraine. Sadly, the child was born prematurely, and she had serious health complications. The publications stated that the child had been abandoned following birth “because he did not like the child’s appearance”. It was also stated that Etynre and his wife Irmgard, hadn’t provided for the child financially, arranged to see her, or organised for her to move to the US. Instead, the couple engaged the surrogacy agency for a second time and had twins born via surrogacy who do now live with them.
There is a lot to think about if you are considering surrogacy, but the Guardian article perhaps highlights, and feeds into, the biggest fear; what if the intended parents and/ or surrogate changes their mind?
It is not uncommon to catastrophize and jump to worst case scenario, it’s how our brains operate. But these are very real concerns and are quite understandable. Surrogacy in the UK is built around trust and this can be quite a scary concept when you’re worried that you might be left holding the baby, or not holding the baby.
In the UK, the surrogate will always be the legal mother to any child, regardless of biology and even if the child is born in another jurisdiction that will allow the intended parents to be named on the birth certificate. This is often surprising for intended parents to hear. Who will be the legal father, or second legal parent, will depend on whether the surrogate is married, whether the intended parent has a biological link to the child and whether the child was conceived at a clinic. This often means that the legal parents at birth, are not who is intended to raise the child and so parentage needs to be resolved.
At present in the UK the intended parents must apply for a parental order, which will reassign legal parentage to the intended parents. The surrogate, and her husband if she is married, will need to provide their consent for the order to be made.
The future of UK Surrogacy
It is actually very rare for there to be disputes arising from surrogacy arrangements, particularly where everyone has been sensible, and a great deal of thought and preparation has been put in. However, it is is a scary thought to enter into such a life changing arrangement without any legal protection.
The law is without doubt outdated and needs to provide more protection. There are changes being proposed that would see intended parents recognised as the legal parents from birth and without the need for a court application. There are conditions attached and these changes are still a long way off, but we are making small steps forward.
These changes would certainly provide much needed reassurance for the intended parents and surrogates.
Get in touch
If you would like advice on your surrogacy rights, or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist surrogacy lawyers here. More
It’s peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.
Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.
Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take action to avoid unnecessary stress.
What is in a surname?
Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do, and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.
The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?
Documents you may need
Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
Your child’s Birth Certificate:
This document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
Proof of your change of name:
This could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.
Prepare your children
You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes. When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was. It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.
Consent to travel
If you are not travelling with your child’s other parent, I would always ensure that you can prove you have their consent to your taking the child abroad.
If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days.
However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.
I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays! More
Child Development (Ages 4-12) – Child and Family Bloghttps://childandfamilyblog.com Transforming new research on cognitive, social & emotional development and family dynamics into policy and practice.Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:29:40 +0000en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2The Justice Gatekeepers for our Childrenhttps://childandfamilyblog.com/modelling-justice-for-children/ Thu, 24 Jun 2021 19:01:55 +0000https://childandfamilyblog.com/?p=16147The justice children experience at home and at school shapes their expectations […] More
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“That is not fair!” Any parent or teacher knows how early in children’s lives this notion drives human behavior, motivation, and belonging. When children feel they are treated fairly, they develop a sense of safety and predictability, and find reason to comply with rules and legitimize authorities. Parents and teachers are justice gatekeepers in children’s lives. How they handle conflict and discipline shapes children’s expectations of justice in other settings. Most children and adolescents do not have direct contact with legal authorities, such as police or judges. However, one of the ways they build their perspectives is based on the justice they have grown to expect from closer authorities. Data from a diverse group of 680 Brazilian adolescents revealed that parents’ justice at home and their evaluations of school fairness predicted how adolescents perceived their personal access to justice and the justice of the world at large. Furthermore, adolescents’ world views of justice predicted how much they legitimized the law and avoided delinquent behaviors the following year. It is easy to think about justice as simply getting what you deserve, but that bypasses one of the more powerful cognitions of justice – the process of justice. Procedural justice considers the respect, neutrality, voice, and fairness of the authority’s actions. A child may not agree that she should be disciplined for her dishonesty, but if the parent is respectful, explains the rules, and listens to the child, she is more likely to continue respecting her parents’ authority, despite her frustration. The point is not to be lenient, but to emerge on the other side with your child’s respect so that, even when consequences are firm, the child experiences the safety and predictability of justice. “How parents and teachers handle conflict and discipline shapes children’s expectations of justice in other settings.” It is vital that children experience justice and come to expect it. Harsh punishments or rules without explanation do not feel fair, and chip away at the legitimacy youth attribute to authorities at large – and that illegitimacy makes them vulnerable to future delinquency. When you find out your child has done something wrong, do you: Listen to their side of the story? Talk to them politely? Explain why you are disciplining them? Youth should be given the chance to articulate their perspective and practice civil dialogue in common daily scenarios. When children are consistently given a chance to explain their perspective and be respected by the authorities they know, they will anticipate and even demand to be given the same rights in society. The world is not a fair place, and failing to expose injustice underprepares children at best, and leads them to blame the victims or be the victims at worst. The goal is not to have children believe the world is fair, but is to make their lives fair so they can be equipped with the courage to engage in positive civic behaviors and avoid fatalistic mindsets. “We want to raise children to speak up and expect to be heard and understood.” We want to raise children who are equipped for the challenges of the world. Doing so begins by providing a safe haven at home and at school, where they can learn to connect their actions to outcomes and to be outraged by, not cynical of, injustice. We want them to have good reasons to legitimize their authorities. We want to raise children to speak up and expect to be heard and understood. We must model for them the kind of justice we want them to demand from society. Header photo: MTSOfan. Creative Commons. More
Join family lawyer Sarah Barr-Young and our special guest Tom Nash, aka Mr Divorce Coach and internationally certified Life, Divorce & Business Coach, as he shares his advice on how to navigate and become a successful co-parent following a divorce or separation.In this free hour-long webinar, Tom will share practical tips and techniques to help you improve how you and our partner co-parent, including:
About the speakers
Tom Nash, otherwise known as Mr Divorce Coach, is an internationally certified Life & Business Coach, specialising in Divorce, Separation & Family Coaching. Accredited by the Association for Coaching, he also holds Master Practitioner certifications in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Timeline Therapy, Hypnotherapy & more.
Partnering closely with family law professionals, he offers an alternative support resource for individuals, couples and their families, assisting in multiple disciplines that include but are not limited to:
Understanding, Managing & Overcoming Negative Emotions (anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, etc.).
Increasing Confidence & Self-Esteem
Fostering Improved Communications Strategies
Positive Mindset & Emotional Wellbeing Techniques
Couples & Uncoupling Coaching
Co-Parenting & Blended Family Coaching
On a personal front, Tom has experienced divorce, co-parenting and the related ups and downs from a young age. First, during his parents’ acrimonious divorce at the age of 3 years old, and later in life as husband and father of his own marital breakdown. He is a successful co-parent, step-father and blended family specialist.
Sarah Barr-Young is the Managing Partner of our Ilkley and Leeds offices and has far-reaching family law experience. She is widely regarded for her expertise in complex cases involving allegations of domestic abuse and safeguarding issues. She is frequently chosen for her empathy and unrivalled approachability, and as such, a large majority of her clients choose her due to personal recommendations. More