When families split up, initially it can be an overlooked or at least daunting task to envisage what would happen regarding seeing your kids for all the different events that may happen over a year. Initially you might get an agreement between the two of you for alternate weekends, if other things are more pressing, that may be all that is agreed on, in the beginning.
It wont take you long to start thinking about other times and maybe top of the list for most is going to be xmas, but even if you take birthdays, bonfire night grandmas birthday plus all the others, it may becomes evident that one parent is going to want the lions share.
My situation as a divorced dad, like many, wanted to try arranging ‘contact’ with my kids on a fair basis, knowing that both their mother and indeed the kids want to have their time shared and have equal time at those special times of year with each parent.
It became evident to me during the early days that arrangements were generally going to be hard. A lot of pre made arrangements were reneged on and this leads to frustration and heated confrontations, not good for the children to witness.
I guess this starts with mediation, where we eventually got down to discussing contact schedules. My ex appeared to try to skip over most of this section, but I was adamant I would not move on until some basis of contact arrangements was made. The mediator was conscious of time and also tried to press me but, the kids were one thing that was going to stay around, the money, the house, well, that would all be gone. So to me it was important.
Eventually with a sigh she gave some answers to some contact questions.
The last subject was xmas, which was the hardest. I led the discussion with an offer of either, seeing the kids on Boxing Day, through to the next afternoon, every year alternatively; alternate xmas’s spent with each parent.
She neither liked nor agreed to either of these suggestions, but also not coming up with an alternative. The mediator, puzzled, asked her about these saying the boxing day scenario was very good, as, she would have them every xmas, her only reply was that she might want to go out.
We were to go on to the next subject at the next sitting, but again I was determined to get an agreement on this, at the risk of delaying or not discussing the equity spilt on the house, she conceded to agree to the boxing day scenario.
This however was never to happen following the mediation.
Mediation was in February, on November of the same year, I applied to the courts for a contact order. I had now had close to two years of being messed about, cancelled plans on numerous occasions, missing out on occasions with the kids, mums 70th birthday which had been arranged for a few months, reneged on at the last minute, the list goes on.
Her solicitor was very clever and knew she could stall the order until after xmas, it was and another xmas without the kids, that’s the third.
The following February we finally got in court, after a lot of preparation. I mean a lot of preparation, I and my McKenzie friend were ready.
For me this wasn’t about fighting my ex, it was about securing a future with my kids, I had always been terrified at losing contact with them, them thinking I had not tried enough, so, I was ready.
I also knew I had to give this my best shot; it was a ‘one shot’ for the future so a whole year had been gone through with a fine tooth comb.
One aspect I had put a lot of time into was the xmas schedule. I came up with a kind of full page chart, covering 5 years; I guessed that after 5 years things might have settled a bit and I would be able to arrange further years on that basis.
I looked hard at calendars for the coming years; I also gave thought to how the weekend contact is affected.
I came up with ‘rules’ for example, weekend contact would cease between two dates, 24th Dec to the 2nd Jan. This was to ensure weekend contact was fair to both parents either side of xmas, and, as of the past I would not be denied, ‘because I had just seen them’ kind of retort.
I drew up a chart overlaid with green arrows for my contact and these staggered each year to follow the alternate xmas scenario with each parent through the period between the two dates.
My work place is closed generally from 23rd to the 2, 3 or 4 Jan so I could do the proposed contact.
On the day of the court hearing, I was actually congratulated by both the judge and her barrister! on the plan put forward. Before going into court there were a couple of tweaks made, some requests I rejected, but in general it was totally granted as what would happen.
So, that year, I finally saw my kids at xmas for the first time in over 3 years. We had a great time, so did the kids. My ex didn’t like it, but she has to abide by it, she knows what the alternative is.
Some parents do come up with their own variations and I have heard of lots of swapping about on xmas day or over a couple of days, I don’t necessarily agree with this, but that’s after my experience and situation, I guess if the kids have more ‘control’ over where they want to be and things are more amicable then maybe it works.
I know I don’t particularly like to be travelling about on xmas day, its not far to my ex’s house, but I prefer, when I am ‘doing’ family, for it to last a few days.
Its harder I think to make any plans if the kids are back and forth during the few days of xmas, it is after all an artificially busy time we create. My kids accept that they get two xmas’s and each lasts for a few days with each parent.
So, this year is my year again with the kids at xmas, looking forward to it as its in my house this year.
I am half way through the plan so during the last year I will draw up another, that then gives me time if its not accepted.
But, at least that was settled and I think works well. From an NRP’s point of view, it is very stressful, not knowing if you will see your kids or not, especially at xmas.
I know that I will and its not points scored over my ex, its bonus’s for my kids.
So, this is my situation, as we know all divorces and contact disputes are slightly different with each family, there are a lot of variables in the mix. But there is generally a common underlying disregard for the parent who is not around most of the time, I believe. Contact arrangements are more difficult the younger the kids, as the kids grow and certainly as they are mobile themselves, most of these disputes will melt away as, the kids will make their own plans for what they want to do and where they want to be, that maybe as hard a pill to swallow in the future, as, I might just get to see them for a few hours xmas day every year and that’s all, but it will be their decision then.
Written by Bobbinalong