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Separated Families at Christmas

For many, Christmas and the festive period can be one of the most wonderful times of the year, but it is also one of the most stressful for newly divorced or separated families. Several issues can arise over Christmas including what gifts to get, timing of changeovers and general arrangements for Christmas Day. Here, we will look at some of the issues faced by recently divorced or separated families during the festive period and how best to deal with those challenges.

Plan

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

It is never too early to start planning Christmas arrangements to reduce any potential arguments or conflicts. There are different types of arrangements that can be made including but not limited to the following:

  1. Split Christmas Day: spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning with one parent and Christmas Day afternoon and Boxing Day with the other parent. However, this option may be too difficult to manage if parents live far apart.
  2. Two Christmases: one nominated day before or after Christmas is chosen by the other parent to celebrate Christmas.
  3. One week each: children spend a week with one parent including Christmas Day and a week with the other including New Years Day.
  4. Christmas together: spend Christmas Day together but be clear with the children to ensure they are not given false hope of you reconciling. This is understandably very difficult for many separating families due to tensions arising from the end of their relationship as a couple.

Think about the best way for you and your former partner to manage communications over Christmas. You may find it helpful to have assistance with communicating and may want to consider options such as a family consultant, mediation, collaborative law or having a solicitor assist you with discussing arrangements. It may be that you are looking at ways of communicating more amicably directly with each other, in which case you may want to consider using a Co-parenting app (such as Our Family Wizard, Cozi and 2Houses), plan a time for a brief face to face chat to discuss some of the points above, or discuss whether it may be easier to speak on the phone, use text messages or WhatsApp or possibly email.

Children

Children are at the heart of Christmas therefore it makes a huge difference to put their needs, wishes, and experience of the Christmas period at the centre of your plans. It can be extremely helpful to discuss the following:

  • Which parent will transport the children;
  • Where the children eat their Christmas meal;
  • Whether single or joint presents will be bought, and what you will each be buying;
  • Any plans, visits or activities being planned over Christmas;
  • Whether you will interact or spend any time together, maybe just a coffee at changeover, to avoid any uncomfortable interactions in front of the children.

In addition, instead of focusing on Christmas arrangements in the past concentrate on creating new traditions at Christmas to ensure you enjoy the festive period. If you are alternating Christmas Day, please do bear in mind that flexibility and goodwill with arrangements on the year the children are not with you may pay dividends the following year.

Self-Care

Christmas is not just about the children but also about you. Spending Christmas away from your children or seeing friends and family having very different experiences to you can be hard. There are a number options for support to help manage your own well-being. Those range from professional support such as therapy or counselling to things that you can try and find time for yourself such as exercise, sleeping and eating well at Christmas time. If your children are going to be with the other parent, try and ensure you aren’t alone for the entire Christmas period and consider staying with friends or family. However, if you need more support then consider seeing a counsellor, psychologist or therapist.

Legal Advice

Christmas is an exciting time of the year so to ensure you have the best chance of successfully navigating and enjoying Christmas please do not hesitate to contact Goodman Ray as we can help you with negotiation, mediation or court proceedings.

Negotiation

A lawyer at Goodman Ray can assist conversations to reach an agreement between you and your ex-partner concerning Christmas arrangements. This can be achieved through a round table discussion or alternatively engaging with your partner’s solicitor. For some families an approach known as collaborative law can be a successful way of both solicitors working closely together.

Mediation

Mediation involves you and your partner trying to resolve issues amicably, with the assistance of a mediator. Goodman Ray has two mediators, Trudi Featherstone and Tom Brownrigg, who would be happy to act as the impartial third party to reach an amicable agreement. Mediation can help people to find a settlement earlier and avoid spiralling legal costs and uncertainty about the outcome of a hearing. However, if mediation is not for you or fails then the court process may be used.

Court

You can apply for a Specific Issue Order (SIO) to set out Christmas arrangements or alternatively a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) which can cover arrangements over Christmas and which you will both be requested to adhere to by the Court. However, before applying for a SIO or CAO the court will require you to have considered mediation first. Going to court is often an option of last resort not only due to the costly nature but also due to the potentially lengthy process. It may however also be necessary in certain urgent situations.

Final Thoughts

Goodman Ray is one of the UK’s leading family law firms with over 30 years of experience. Goodman Ray will look at both the practicalities and children law issues connected with Christmas to help alleviate your stress during a hectic period. We are well-placed to assist you over the Christmas period so please do not hesitate to contact Goodman Ray on 0207 608 1227 for more information.

By Jasmine Jones and Thomas Brownrigg

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