Christmas is a time that is charged with expectations. Especially in regard to family, family get-togethers and the “Christmas Eve”. In family law practice, we experience that conflicts or family wishes that remain unresolved, even if they exist all year round, are often an even bigger burden for those affected around Christmas. Especially if you have children together and live separately, difficult questions can arise at Christmas. For example, where and with whom the children celebrate Christmas, especially if the parents cannot agree. What about the visitation rights?
Christmas Visitation rights – the legal side
Regular, reliable contact with both parents that meets the needs of the child is a fundamental right of the parent-child relationship. However, the focus is always on the best interests of the child. All parties involved have the responsibility to promote this contact. In the best case, the parents can reach an amicable agreement on how they want to organize contact with the children. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a court ruling may become necessary. Courts make decisions on a case-by-case basis and take several things into account, such as the age of the child, previous practice and the needs and wishes of the child.
Normally, regular contact will be in the best interests of the child. Whereas in the past, every second weekend was sometimes set as a template for contact with the parent who was not the main carer, attempts are now being made to really take the individual situation of the family into account. Also granting the parent, with whom the children does not live, times during the children’s free time as well as their everyday life. You don’t want to push one parent into the role of an occasional visitor. It also makes sense that one parent is not solely responsible for doing fun activities at the weekend while the other parent is always checking the homework. This way, on the one hand, the main caring parent can be relieved, and, on the other hand, the contact parent can also participate in the child’s everyday life.
The question of what constitutes a “normal” visitation rights can hardly be answered in this form. If you ask yourself what is best for the children, you will regularly have to look at the concrete circumstances. In a family where both parents have been on maternity leave for a longer period of time and both have worked part-time in order to be able to be equally available for the children, the contact right to be determined or appropriate will most likely look different than in a family where one person was mostly alone and mainly responsible for child care. Generally speaking, a contact right that exceeds 80 days per year is called an above-average contact right.
Christmas and other important holidays
The holidays are also primarily about the best interests of the child. Especially in the case of separated parents with a high potential for conflict, reaching an amicable agreement is fundamentally a challenge. Often both parents want to spend important holidays, which may also have great personal significance, together with the children. The same applies here: At best, the parents succeed in reaching an amicable agreement regarding Christmas or even a birthday of the child. Here, for example, a solution suggests itself in which the parents can alternate, i.e. celebrate Christmas with the children every year. Equally suitable could be the option of always spending the 24th with one parent and the 25th or 26th with the other parent.
If the parents cannot agree, it is the prevailing case law that the child should spend particularly important holidays, such as “Christmas Eve” or their own birthday, in the household of the main caring parent. However, the other parent should be given the opportunity to celebrate with the children as close as possible to the holiday in question, for example on the day before or after.
This article was published at the Standard.