Info & Advice

Can I spend Mother’s Day with the children?

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With Mother’s Day looming on the horizon, it is sensible to make sure you arrange contact with your children now to avoid conflict nearer the time if it is not your turn to have them. Following divorce, parents can agree how long their children should spend with the other parent and on which days of the year. Such arrangements, and even court orders, can take into account days such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But problems can arise for those parents who are not on amicable terms, or they have previously been acting on an ad hoc basis.

There are no set rules or legislation for how long children should spend with each parent or on which days. This is a matter for negotiation between the parties. For example, if Mother’s Day falls on the father’s weekend, it is reasonable to ask to swap in exchange for seeing the children on another day. If an agreement cannot be reached, it is important to try to resolve the issue well in advance of the event to make sure matters can be ironed out and an application made to court, if necessary.

Can I force the other parent to agree to Mother’s Day contact?

If Mother’s Day falls on the father’s contact day and they refuse to swap, it depends whether there is an existing court order as to what you can do. If the court order sets out who the children should spend time with but does not make allowances for special days, and it so happens Mother’s Day falls on the father’s time, the court order should be followed. Breaching a court order is a serious matter with consequences.

If there is no court order and father usually has the children which happens to be Mother’s Day, then theoretically there is nothing to stop the mother from withholding contact on that day. Although this course of action is not recommended. Not only does it breed ill feeling between the couple, but sets a precedent for bad behaviour of a similar nature on Father’s Day, for example.

Can I go to court if we cannot reach an agreement about Mother’s Day?

Before plunging into a court application, it would be more sensible to try to reach an agreement with the other parent. Alternatively, mediation may offer a way forward for parents to reach a longer term agreement encompassing special days that occur throughout the year. Both these options are cheaper than going to court and will resolve the matter far quicker, too.

If informal agreement or mediation has not worked, you can make an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order which sets out exactly when contact should take place or a Specific Issue Order which will narrow the issue to Mother’s Day alone.

Ultimately, the court will take into account the child’s welfare and any practical matters, such as cost or work commitments. The court will be on the child’s side and make a decision based on what is in the child’s best interests, not what the parents want.

If you find yourself with little option but to go to court, it is advisable to seek specialist legal advice. A well-timed solicitor’s letter may be all it takes to release the deadlock.

What can I do to cope on Mother’s Day without the children?

If the other parent refuses to budge on this issue and court is not an option, handling the emotions of Mother’s Day without the children will be difficult. But in circumstances where you are unable to be together, there are some things you can put in place to help you deal with it as best you can.

  • Plan ahead for Mother’s Day – talk to your ex in advance to see if you can swap weekends/days so you can spend the day with the children, and ensure you do the same for Father’s Day.
  • Why does Mother’s Day have to fall on a certain date? These days most people eschew, or are oblivious to, the religious connotations of Mother’s Day. Take control of the situation and organise your own special Mother’s Day for a time when you will have the children. Plan something you can all enjoy together and make a day unique for you.
  • If your children are pre-school age, a card and gift may not be likely. Older children may make a card at home or at school and maybe you have friends or family who will step in with a “surprise” gift. But why not treat yourself and buy your own gift? At least it will be something you want and like.
  • Take the opportunity to do something different with your time if the children are not with you on the day. Gather your friends who aren’t mothers or who are also experiencing a trying Mother’s Day themselves and arrange a meal or day out. Spend time with your own mum and enjoy a day together. Or go to a place you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t found the time; visiting a new place, or going for a walk, does wonders to lift the mood.
  • Make it a digital detox day and avoid social media. Seeing photographs of others enjoying their family time is very likely to make you feel worse and knock you off course with your alternative Mother’s Day. Always keep in mind that people tend to share the highlights of their lives on social media, and it will be a cherry-picked snapshot rather than the reality of the whole day.

Ultimately, you should keep in mind that Mother’s Day is just one day in the year, and you are not alone in being in this situation. Single parents, married mothers in difficult relationships, and those who have lost a mother or a child will struggle too. Focus your energy on making the most of the day by taking the time to prioritise yourself and curating the day to suit what you want. You can then make another day special for you and the children without the pressure of Mother’s Day. It will probably be less expensive too.

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