Christmas is a particularly difficult time to be separated from your kids. It’s hard not to miss that full “Santa” experience with them every year– that Christmas Eve build-up through to the full-on Christmas Day excitement.
How does it work after you split from your Ex?
Do you get Boxing Day allocated as the consolation prize every year? Maybe you get a quick Christmas Day Facetime, if you’re lucky? Or do you get what’s given when it comes to Christmas at the last minute – a few hours here and there which fit rounds your Ex’s plans and always subject to change? Or following your break-up, did you agree to share/alternate special holidays, like Christmas, each year but this never seemed to happen?
Of course, it is always preferable for parents to agree fair parenting time following the breakdown of their relationship. Going to court should never be the first choice or seen as a compulsory step in the separation process. However, the road to hell certainly is paved with good intentions. You both meant well when you said you would sort it out “nearer the time” but that conversation never happened and now you are stuck with what you can get, if that, and you are concerned about rocking the boat.
You both meant well when you said you would sort it out “nearer the time” but that conversation never happened and now you are stuck with what you can get, if that, and you are concerned about rocking the boat.
Post-separation best practice It’s important after separation to agree how you will SHARE the holidays throughout the year, including Christmas, even if that seems a long way ahead at the time. Waiting until the week before Christmas can prove problematic as parents’ schedules clash and emotions peak. Keeping standard parenting time – such as a week on/week off arrangement – can prove hard to live with if your week on/week off schedule means you will be waiting 5 years for a Christmas Day with your now 9 year-old.
Be specific about the special days. Be flexible. Be practical. Be fair.
It’s never too late to make an agreement. Make sure Christmas works for everyone, including you. Putting the children first means allowing them to experience special times with both parents.
Christmas parenting arrangements are:
- Part of each special day for each parent e.g. Christmas Eve daytime to Parent A and then Christmas Eve evening to Parent B/Christmas morning to Parent B/ Christmas Day daytime/evening to Parent A (alternating each year); or
- Christmas Eve to Parent A on even years and Christmas Day to Parent B on odd years and Christmas Eve to Parent B on even years and Christmas Day to Parent A on odd years.
The appropriate schedule for your situation will, of course depend on your family circumstances including the ages of your children/location of each household from the other, work commitments, other responsibilities, views of children etc. The key is fairness and always remember that parenting is a shared responsibility and with it comes highs and lows that belong equally to parents.
Have that conversation – be calm, be rational, be fair.
At the end of the day, kids deserve to make fun memories at Christmas with both their mother and their father. Both parents should work together to make that happen.
If you cannot agree a fair arrangement with your Ex, then you should consider mediation or alternatively, you should apply for a court order either in the Provincial Court or the Supreme Court.
In the Provincial Court (locations in big cities and some small cities such as Abbotsford, Surrey and Port Coquitlam) you can file a Notice of Motion for a hearing to have a judge make a decision relating to parenting time over Christmas and other holidays. Your Notice of Motion needs to be filed with an affidavit from you providing your evidence about the issue. You will need to provide your Ex with at least 7 days’ notice of the hearing and serve them your documents.
In the Supreme Court (locations are in bigger cities like Chilliwack, New Westminster and Vancouver), you can file a Notice of Application (Form 31) to have a judge make a decision about parenting time over Christmas (and other holidays). You will also have to file an affidavit, like in Provincial Court and serve your documents. In most cases, you must provide 8 clear days’ notice of the hearing. If Christmas time is fast approaching, you can apply for short leave to have your application heard sooner.
All documents can be found online on the Government of BC website: www.gov.bc.ca/court-forms
If you can work with your Ex to respect each other’s roles in your child’s life, then the division of Christmas parenting time should be straightforward. But for many, this isn’t possible.
If you need help to get fair parenting time at Christmas or any other time of the year, then consider using the services of a family lawyer. A lawyer can help negotiate arrangements and if necessary, apply to the court on your behalf.
Grace, Snowdon & Terepocki LLP can take that weight off your shoulders.