Tips for managing child arrangements over the festive period

Even if your child arrangements work smoothly the rest of the year, Christmas can be a source of tension for many families trying to balance time with children. Our experienced Family team have shared their tips for helping to manage this potentially tricky time, including:

  • Planning ahead
  • Staying focused on the children
  • Sticking to your agreed plans
  • Complying with any court orders
  • Asking yourself – can it wait?

If you need advice and support around child arrangements, contact our Family team on 01392 256854 or email

1. Plan ahead

Forward planning is key. It is best to get the timetable agreed as early as possible so that everyone knows what to expect. Even if you usually stick to the same arrangements, or alternate each year, make sure to check that you are both still on the same page and that there are no reasons the plans might need to change, such as different working patterns or a special family event.

2. Focus on the children

It is important to be child focused in your planning. They will want to spend time with the people they love at this time of year. You may not agree on many things, but the majority of parents we deal with do agree that they each love their children and want to do what’s best for them. Despite your differences, it is especially important at this time of year to try and find common ground and understanding.

3. Keep to the plan

Last minute changes to plans, or even just turning up slightly later than agreed, can be very frustrating for the other parent. Avoid creating conflict by being timely and keeping to arrangements. Equally, if there is a clearly unavoidable situation that causes a delay, be reasonable. Assume the sincerity of the other parent unless they give you a reason not to.

4. Respect formal orders

If there is a court order in place, it is important to comply with the terms of the order when making your Christmas child arrangements. Unless agreed between you, any variation to the Order can only be made by the Court – however, except in extreme emergencies, the Court won’t consider this over Christmas. If you have genuine welfare concerns for your child, then you should seek advice from MASH/Children Services. You should contact the Police on 999 in emergency situations, but unless there is a threat of violence the Police do not usually get involved with private law family disputes.

5. Ask yourself ‘can it wait?’

Unless there is a genuine emergency, try to avoid escalating conflict over Christmas. The festive period can be busy, and often comes with heightened emotions and stress – not the best time for resolving disputes, and hostility between parents is quickly picked up on by children.

You can’t always prevent disputes from arising. Money, for example, may be a big subject at this time of year. But ask yourself, “do I need to deal with this right now, or can it wait?” Focus on giving your child the Christmas experience you would like them to have, and then pick a time when you feel able to have a calm and reasonable dialogue to deal with your concerns.

We’re here to help

Our experienced and highly regarded Family Law team have helped many families with child arrangements and family dispute resolution. If you’d like to speak to a member of our team, contact us on 01392 256854 or email