Christmas for Separated Families

13 December 2016

Clare Curran, Partner in Charge of the Family Law Department here at Worthingtons Solicitors gives her top tips for making arrangements for the children run as smoothly as possible over the holiday period.

undefinedThe Christmas break can be a tough time for separated families.  Trying to ensure that everyone is happy, when time has to be divided between 2 households isn’t always easy so here are some of my top tips for surviving the Festive period as best you can after a marriage or relationship breakdown.

  1. Don’t compete with each other – this can apply to present buying, as well as how much time you each get to spend with the children, or how much fun you are having when they are with you!  If you cannot agree to share the financial burden of buying presents, at least try and agree who will buy what.   It is not important who buys the biggest or most expensive present.  It is also not always important that both parents get to spend the same amount of time with the children.  What matters is that the children are free to relax and enjoy the festivities in a stress free, happy environment.
  2. Plan and agree as much as you can as far as possible in advance – if you can, talk to each other about what might work best for your own situation.  Every family is different.  For some, alternating Christmas Days with each parent might work, for others spending some time with both parents on Christmas Day every year may be better, and for some families, staying in one home every Christmas but celebrating with the other parent on a different day, might work better still.  The more you can agree in advance, the less stress you are both likely to experience over the holiday period itself.
  3. Manage the handovers appropriately – make sure that when the children move from one parent to the other, the arrangements are kept as simple and as amicable as possible.  Discuss and agree when and how this will be done.  Stick to the agreed plan and communicate if any issues arise.  If it is too difficult to manage the hand over face to face, consider a neutral friend or family member who might be able to help out.
  4. Remain child centred in all your decisions – try not to let the children know if you feel you will be sad or upset when they go.  Try not to criticise the other parent in front of the children, even if you are unhappy with something they have done.  And rather than making decisions based on what is right for you, decide what would be best for the children.
  5. Make new traditions – if you are going to be spending a period of the holidays on your own, make plans, perhaps with other friends or family, or do something that you will enjoy to ease any anxiety or upset you may be feeling .

If for some reason your plans for Christmas do not work out as you hoped or wished, there are ways to resolve such disputes in the future.  One option would be to contact a mediation service, such as  Family Mediation NI, to help you discuss and agree future plans for the children.  Alternatively you can engage the services of a family lawyer to help you try and work out such problems by agreement.

Ultimately an application can be made to a Family Court for a Judge or a panel of Magistrates to decide what should happen when no agreement can be reached, but such applications can bring uncertainty and there is a risk that you may not get the outcome that you want, so discussing and resolving issues together as much as possible is preferable to asking a court to decide on such matters.

Should you require any advice or assistance in respect of any of the issues raised in this article please do not hesitate to contact one of our family law team on familylaw@worthingtonslaw.co.uk or telephone the office on 028 91811538 to discuss in confidence.  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the team here at Worthingtons Solicitors.

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