1st November 2019

How to share Christmas

Whilst there will always be those who complain about the commercialisation of Christmas, no one can doubt that it remains a time of magic and excitement for children of all ages.

As parents, we do all we can to ensure that our children have a wonderful time and that the magic is protected for as long as possible. This can be stressful enough at the best of times, but it can become so much more difficult following a divorce or separation. Emotions may be running high, particularly if the separation is recent, finances are likely to be more stretched and to top it all, arrangements must be made to ensure that children can spend time with both parents over the Christmas period.

Any family lawyer will tell you that even the most amicable couple can find this a difficult issue and whilst it might be tempting to ask the children, particularly older ones, what they would like to happen, be prepared for the additional burden of guilt that is bound to follow the likely reply that what they really want, is for the family to be together at Christmas. So is it possible to resolve such a potentially fraught issue without tears? Absolutely it is, but only if the adults involved are able and prepared to make a huge effort to remind themselves that, just as when they were together, they need to concentrate on doing their best to make this time special not for themselves, but for their children. The earlier discussions can take place the better, as that should avoid the need for previous arrangements to be altered or cancelled and also allows a parent facing Christmas day without the children to make the best of the situation, possibly by arranging to spend the day with other parents in a similar position.

Sadly however, there will always be some couples who really struggle to reach an agreement and who will need assistance in settling matters. Whilst courts can assist and indeed are often called upon to decide on arrangements in the weeks running up to Christmas, this really should be seen as a last resort.

Not only are court proceedings expensive, but court lists are busy at the best of times and often there is simply no time for a court to hear an application in time for Christmas. But even more fundamentally, bear in mind that nothing will destroy any remaining vestige of goodwill more than contested court proceedings. Better alternatives are mediation or collaborative law, both of which can assist couples in reaching an agreement. Yes, this may well require compromise on both sides, but it will certainly be worth it if it allows the children to enjoy time with both their parents over this special time.

If you would like further advice, we offer a free 30-minute meeting. Please contact our team secretary Louise Huxstep on T: 01892 502 338 or E: LHuxstep@bussmurton.co.uk

This article was first published in the November 2019 edition of The Wealden Times magazine.

Melanie den Brinker

Melanie den Brinker