How to deal with festive family feuds

As the nights start to draw in, and the weather turns colder, thoughts start to turn to the festive period.  Whilst this can be an enjoyable time, it can also be one of frustration and hostility for separated parents who are trying to agree child contact arrangements over the Christmas period.

Often parents are able to agree between themselves how the contact arrangements over Christmas will be structured.  However, if this is not the case, specialist legal advice may be required.

There are various methods available in order to resolve contact disputes.  Mediation may be a sensible option to try in the first instance.  Mediation is a voluntary process which can assist in resolving disputes in a constructive and cost-effective manner.  If mediation is unsuccessful, or is not an appropriate method of resolution, other options include solicitors’ correspondence, arbitration, collaborative law, or court proceedings.  An early discussion with a family solicitor can often assist with deciding which is the most appropriate method of resolution.

If a court application is required to resolve matters, it is important to recognise that a hearing will be listed to determine the issue. In order to prevent there being any delay, if it becomes apparent that court proceedings will be required, it is important that an application is made as soon as possible. The welfare of the children will be the paramount consideration for the court.  The court will also consider the children’s wishes and feelings and how these can be best served over the festive period.

The court is likely to seek to ensure that the children spend quality time with both parents over the festive period, if possible.  However, there is no standard position regarding Christmas contact.  Each arrangement will be tailored to the specific family in question.

If you are a parent and need help in agreeing arrangements for your children, please contact Natalie Beese ( or Emily Woodhouse ( on 01582 765111.  Natalie and Emily are both family solicitors specialising in providing advice on private law children matters.