The law in England and Wales doesn't make any provisions specifically relating to contact with children over the Christmas period. Fathers who do not live with their children will need to either agree contact with the children's primary caregiver or (if an agreement cannot be reached) apply for a Court Order.
Fathers’ Right to See Children at Christmas
Naturally, as a father it's likely that you'll want to see your kids over the Christmas holidays. After all, Christmas is a time to spend with those you love most, and it's a particularly magical time to share with your children.
As a parent, although you do have a legal right to see your children, if you no longer live with them and fail to get the agreement of their primary caregiver, you are powerless to enforce this right without a Court Order.
So if you're a father and you're no longer living in the same household as your children, you'll need to come to an agreement with their primary caregiver (usually their mother) as to when you can see them over Christmas. It may be possible for you come to a mutual agreement, and we would always recommend attempting this as the first course of action.
For example, you might decide that one parent sees the children on Christmas morning, and the other sees them in the afternoon. Or the children might spend this Christmas with one parent and the next year with the other.
However, we know that coming to an amicable agreement isn't always possible and sadly, it's not uncommon for separated parents to clash over child contact. This can be especially true at Christmas – a time of year when emotions are often running high.
So as a father, where does this leave you? Should you just accept that you can't see your children at Christmas?
How to Resolve Child Contact Disputes
If there are disagreements regarding any aspect of child custody or contact, we recommend that your first step is to try mediation. This is when a specially trained mediator works to help you and the other parent reach an agreement on where and when each of you will see the children.
If mediation isn't successful, the next step is to get a Child Arrangement Order from the Court. This involves making an application to the Court, which will be reviewed by a Judge. They will then decide where the child should live and when he/she should see each parent. A Child Arrangement Order can also make provisions for special events such as Christmas and birthdays.
Our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors can advise on Child Arrangement Orders along with any other types of Court Order relevant to your situation. These Court Orders are legally binding. So if a Judge rules that child contact should be shared over Christmas, then that's what must happen, giving you – as a father – the legal right to see your kids at Christmas.
Making Child Contact Arrangements
Making child contact arrangements can be one of the most difficult things to agree on when a relationship breaks down.
Sometimes it will be immediately obvious that an agreement cannot be reached. But other times problems only arise later down the line. This often happens during the festive period, when a father might ask if he can see the children over Christmas, but is told “no” with no room for negotiation.
However, you must remember that your child has a right to maintain a good relationship with each of their parents, as long as it is safe for him/her to do so. This means that as a father, you should be allowed to spend time with your kids. If you are unreasonably being denied contact with your children, you should speak to one of our Family Law Solicitors about your options.
For initial advice call our Family Law & Divorce Solicitors on 03306069626 or contact us online and we will call you.