Christmas, Separation, and Divorce
Is it too early to be thinking about Christmas? For shop owners and retail businesses, it is never too early and for family law solicitors it is about the right time to raise the topic of Christmas contact. In this article, our family law solicitors look at the topic of Christmas, separation, and divorce and offer some tips for separated parents.
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When to separate
Some people consult a family lawyer in October, November, or December and say that they don’t want upset over the Christmas season so they will delay telling their partner that they want to separate and start no-fault divorce proceedings until January and the new year.
When to separate can be a difficult decision. How and when to tell your partner about your desire to separate and start divorce proceedings can be even trickier. Whilst delay can be right for some couples and families, for others it just prolongs the unhappiness and tension that both the adults and children are experiencing.
You may think that you are protecting your children by delaying your separation but your children may pick up on vibes even if you think that they don’t know anything about your plans to separate. In addition, if Christmas is going to be miserable because you and your husband or wife are unhappy in your relationship, the children may be happier if you separate now rather than wait until after Christmas.
First Christmas after a separation or divorce
If this is your first Christmas after your separation or divorce then it is bound to be an emotional time for you and potentially for your extended family members, such as grandparents. With a first Christmas, you may feel overwhelmed because you are in the midst of family mediation or divorce financial settlement proceedings or because the long-term parenting and child custody and contact arrangements have not been agreed upon. Alternatively, your ex-husband or wife may be putting you under pressure to have Christmas as normal ‘for the sake of the children’.
Family law solicitors say there is no one right or wrong decision when it comes to your first Christmas after your separation or divorce. Much depends on your family dynamics. For example, will you or your ex-husband or wife be too emotional or angry to spend the day together with the children? Will grandparents be incapable of being civil to your ex? Will you be able to agree to a truce over the Christmas period and agree not to speak about your divorce financial settlement over the festive period? It is best to do what you think you and your children can cope with rather than what your ex-husband or wife or your family expect of you.
Christmas and contact
Some parents change the Christmas contact arrangements each year, depending on their plans. Others like to set up a post-separation or divorce Christmas routine so adults and children know what is happening and there is less scope for debate or arguments.
Examples of the common Christmas arrangements include:
- Alternate Christmas and new year so a parent either spends Christmas or new year with the children on a 2-year cycle
- The children spend every Christmas with the parent they live with but the other parent gets to spend time with the children on Christmas eve or boxing day
- Christmas day is split between the parents – this only works if both parents live relatively near to one another
- The children spend a week with one parent at Christmas and the other week of the school Christmas holidays with the other parent
If you do not want a set Christmas schedule that you follow every year, it is best to start talking about Christmas early so you have plenty of time to reach an agreement. For help in reaching a Christmas contact agreement call our family law solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
If you can't agree on the Christmas contact arrangements, either parent can apply to the family court for a child arrangement order for the court to decide on the contact over the Christmas period. Alternatively, the Christmas contact arrangements may normally be agreed but your ex-husband or wife may be refusing Christmas contact this year because they want to take the children on a skiing holiday or because they want to travel to see their new partner’s parents, taking the children with them.
Christmas contact and the practicalities
Family law solicitors recommend that if you are trying to agree on your Christmas contact arrangements you look at your plans from your child’s perspective and consider the practicalities of what you and your ex-husband or wife are suggesting. For example:
- If the children are going to spend time with both parents on Christmas day who will do the transport between houses? Will this create conflict if parents both want to have a drink on Christmas day?
- Where will the children have their Christmas meal? It is unfair to expect the children to eat 2 lots of turkey on Christmas day
- Will you consult over Christmas presents and buy joint presents or ensure that the children don’t get the same present from each of you?
- If the children are older, have you asked the children how they would like to spend Christmas? Sometimes the children go along with what you want whilst resenting the busyness of Christmas day or disliking the time spent traveling between houses when they just want to have a relaxing day playing with their toys or gaming or watching the TV
Although it is trite to say, Christmas day is just 1 day of the year and family solicitors advise that it is best not to let the hype of Christmas day either create or increase conflict and dispute with your ex-husband or wife. That’s why family lawyers look at both the practicalities and the children law issues surrounding Christmas day contact to reduce the stress of the impact of Christmas when you are separated or divorced.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors