<strong>It’s ‘too late’ to go to Court over Christmas childcare rotas</strong>

Couples in conflict urged to take advantage of Government mediation voucher scheme to help resolve matters

National Family Mediation (NFM) has today urged families in conflict to take advantage of a government mediation voucher scheme to sort out Christmas child arrangements in the most amicable way possible.

The call to action comes after NFM, which helps families to sort arrangements for children, property, finance and other important matters, warned recently separated parents that it was likely ‘too late’ to go to go through the courts to agree a Christmas rota for the children, with the wait for a non-urgent court date now sitting at around 44 weeks.

Instead, families are being urged to embrace mediation as a way of agreeing plans for the holiday period, using a government funded £500 voucher for mediation services with the aim of finding amicable solutions to their disagreements.

It is intended to spare families from the trauma of going through often lengthy and costly courtroom battles, which can have a damaging impact on children. Normally each mediation session is charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.

The charity says it is preparing itself for a particularly busy festive period, with the latest Ministry of Justice (MoJ) family court statistics showing that the number of divorce applications between April and June rose to the highest level since the first quarter of 2012, and were up 22 per cent from the same period last year. 

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said: “Christmas is always seen by parents as a special event and a moment to cherish with the children arrangements are usually made separate to other contact arrangements after a couple chooses to separate. Typically speaking the Courts try to order alternate xmas days.

“However, this often doesn’t suit many families, and we know that there has been a real increase in divorce applications this year meaning that in many cases the parents may not yet have reached a stage where a formal agreement is in place.

“Where that is the case, we usually see the same disputes amongst parents arise time and time again, and a real sticking point is who gets to have the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It’s a very emotive topic.

“While the court may have capacity to hear a handful of the more extreme cases, the reality is that it is too late for most people. Mediation is a great alternative, and the funding means it is really accessible to everyone too.

“The voucher scheme means that everyone can access the support they need, but time is running out and so we would really encourage anyone who wants to put plans in place for Christmas to act now and book your mediation session.

“Mediation is successful in 9 out of 10 cases so there is every possibility an agreement can be reached.”

National Family Mediation has also created a downloadable Christmas parenting plan for separated parents to try to reach agreement between themselves on festive arrangements for their children.