Father's Day is fast approaching and whilst many separated parents are successful in amicably navigating special occasions with one another; this is not the case for every family.
Special occasion contact - top tips
A lot of separated parents focus on agreeing, negotiating or litigating over term time and school holiday arrangements. Large annual celebrations such as Christmas are also focussed upon but this can mean that smaller occasions are overlooked. If not discussed they can become extremely contentious. Therefore, my five top tips in avoiding conflict over these occasions are as follows:
Remain child focused. It is imperative to consider matters from your child’s point of view. Is it important to your child that they can give mummy or daddy that special card they made at school/nursery and would they be heartbroken if they couldn’t celebrate with their respective parents on the special days? Whilst a child’s wishes and feelings are not the deciding factor in any child arrangement application they often play a large role and should be considered even during direct discussions between the parents.
Don’t be petty. Special occasions should not be used as a point scoring exercise between separated parents. Parents are encouraged to put their feelings towards one another aside and act in the best interests of their children. Ask yourself why you strongly object to your child spending father’s day with dad- if the reason stems from your personal feelings rather than any genuine safeguarding concern then you should reconsider.
Be considerate to the other parent. It is vital to communicate with one another to understand the importance of certain special occasions, and be mindful of specific requests. Are religious celebrations of upmost importance to one parent? Is the other a huge fan of Halloween and always wants to ensure the children celebrate with a party? Whatever the specific request, by communicating, parents are far more likely to be able to reach an agreement that satisfies their wishes while ensuring the children’s needs are met.
Start discussions in advance- It is important when considering child arrangements to start discussions early. This gives the best chance of parents being able to reach agreement prior to important special occasions. However, if agreement cannot be reached discovering this early will allow the parties to explore other methods of dispute resolution such as mediation, solicitor negotiation or indeed an application to court.
Be fair and realistic. There is an established view within child arrangement proceedings that children should be afforded a good quality relationship with both parents where it is safe and appropriate to do so. This does not always equate to a shared division of time but fairness to the children and their relationship with both parents should always be considered. This principle should apply not only in litigation but even in direct discussions between the parties.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that not all separated parents remain amicable and special occasions can be a difficult and triggering time for some. However, by following the above points it may assist in ensuring your children are not disrupted and special occasion contact is at the forefront of any discussions for their arrangements.
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