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Christmas, COVID and Playstation 5: Children arrangements over the festive period

Christmas is an emotive time even when families are living together. Families evolve their own traditions, such as always attending the Christingle service on Christmas Eve; putting the kids to bed and reading them their favourite Christmas story having left out a carrot, mince pie and glass of milk; or cosying up around the TV watching The Snowman or Arthur Christmas.

When parents separate these are happy memories you want to recreate as part of a new family life and preserve for the future – something from the past you don’t want to lose. Inevitably things have to change when you separate.

You may be the parent who is relieved at having secured the PS5 for your child from Santa, the only present they have on their list this year. You may then face accusations that you feel are unfair of being a narcissist parent trying to buy your child, or accusations of being controlling or possessive which you don’t feel are true. You may feel some jealously about not spending all of Christmas with your child. You may face some fear of loneliness, imagine yourself staring into your ex’s happy family scene around a Christmas tree without you.

COVID-19 has affected us all in recent months but despite us moving into different tiers, arrangements for children spending time with parents who are separated should remain unchanged leading up to Christmas unless parents are self-isolating.

In a year when many families are facing a break with Christmas tradition with just a few allowed for Christmas lunch this year, it is important to have an early dialogue with your ex about what is happening over the Christmas period.

Judges have a wide discretion and vary in decision making as to how to deal with Christmas Day and for this reason, not only is rushing to make a Court application very unlikely to be prioritised as urgent and dealt with before Christmas, but the outcome is equally uncertain. Many will say that if you have a child who believes in Father Christmas, that child should wake up on Christmas morning in the household that they usually live in where they believe Father Christmas will visit.  Others will say you should have an alternate Christmas Day each year. Perhaps the best of both worlds is where parents still live reasonably close to one another and can share Christmas Day.

Whatever the agreement reached this year it will depend on the age of your child and practical arrangements. The Children Act 1989, a law copied around the world in different countries as being the foundation of good practice legally for children, emphasizes the very basic point that a child’s welfare is of paramount importance. What’s right for your child is the most important thing. Practical arrangements, family traditions and what presents Father Christmas has at each house are important, but the most important thing is to keep conflict to a minimum by early planning and putting your child’s welfare on Christmas Day at the very heart of your decision. If your child spends 10 hours playing on his PS5 and misses lunch with Grannie, will he later feel that Christmas hasn’t really happened at all?

If you can’t reach an agreement then there is a requirement that you consider Family Mediation as an alternative to the Court process to resolve issues. There are exceptions to this. If you need any help or advice in relation to a children matter, please contact our Family Law team on 0113 201 4902 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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