Divorced and separated parents face the risk of legal action if they fail to agree on where their children will spend Christmas.
The pre-Christmas alert has come from Bromsgrove-based family lawyer Alison Webber who has warned that due to new legal provisions that came into force in time for the festive season it is now assumed that both parents should be involved in caring for their children in the event of a separation.
Ms Webber, a family and child law specialist within the family team at law firm mfg Solicitors, said the new provision encourages parents to share the forthcoming holidays with the other.
She said: “Hopefully most parents who live apart will have by now agreed where their children will be for Christmas and New Year. But many are unware that if there is a dispute, the courts can intervene and the new legal provision which came into force on 22 October will now also be taken into account.
“Judges will still always focus on what is best for the child and it will not be the same in every case. They might decide it is better for a child to spend Christmas with one parent and New Year with the other, or to share each day. There are also issues the courts can decide around collection and return.
“It is obvious that divorce and separation is never easy and it can make Christmas especially difficult.
“But as we approach the festive season we have been sitting down with parents who are finding that it is far better to come to a compromise.
“The last thing anyone wants to be dealing with at this time of year is a court hearing. But parents must realise that if it does come to that then the court has the power and will use it.
“Almost all cases can be resolved with some advice and support at the right time. Open and friendly discussions tend to have a good outcome and if parents cannot sort it out between themselves it is far better to seek legal advice and come to an agreement without the stress and worry of a looming court date.”
It is estimated that one in three children in the UK will experience parental separation at some point. Around half of couples who divorced in 2010 had at least one child under 16 while a fifth were under age five.