Many of you reading this will know how hard Christmas can be for many families, especially those going through divorce/separation.
We are grateful to Katharine of Raydens Solicitors for this seasonal advice
Christmas is often quite the opposite, particularly if a relationship has or is about to come to an end.
Perhaps it is the pressure of advertising, the work involved in the Christmas preparations or simply having everyone together, who knows? The fact remains that most family lawyers have an influx of new enquiries in January after the Christmas period.
In some ways, this is a demonstration of a family working together for the sake of the children in order that they can have a happy memory of one last Christmas together in other cases it is because there has been a crisis at Christmas that requires urgent assistance.
Here are a few tips to help you the Christmas time. I have not provided detailed legal advice as Christmas is an ideal time to put the abiding legal concept of “acting in the best interests of the child” into practice.
Ideally, both of you would have discussed the presents that each are buying. If not, it will soon become clear whether your child’s hint for the latest lego was in fact made to both of you and they are now the proud owner of 2 star wars space ships. If this is the case, try not to score a perceived tactical advantage in opening yours first- be practical
– Would 2 toys be a good idea? Sometimes it is, as they can play with each one in each parent’s house without worrying about packing it up
– Keep the receipt!
The Big FC
Mothers will often say that the children need to be at her home to wake up on Christmas day and receive their stockings. This is more of an emotional reaction to the idea of them not being there with the children that thinking of it in terms of what the children would like.
It is often the case that Santa visits both houses and leaves a stocking for the children to open when they arrive
Children do not measure Christmas by dates and are more than happy to have more than one celebrations. Don’t feel that just because you didn’t see the children on Christmas Day, you can’t make a Christmas memory a few days before or later.
If you are not having the children on Christmas day and don’t feel like being with friends and family, do something else – volunteer at a hospital, go to a hotel and postpone it until you see the children.
It is not unusual for someone to leave a message etc on a facebook page/answerphone/ mobile etc (particularly if alcohol is involved) but, if you are in the throes of a relationship breakdown DON’T!
If you are using to solicitors or are about to ask for assistance from the Courts and/or lawyers, don’t underestimate the way in which a “witty” comment about your relationship/ partner will be misconstrued.
In USA, there is an increasing tendency for parents to provide full disclosure of their facebooks accounts to the other. It does not happen here (and is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future), but you must appreciate that you will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt and any comments about a boozy night or people you have met are more likely than not to be interpreted against you.
Finally, if the Christmas period makes it clear that you are going to need to seek legal advice, you have two options:
- Have a general discussion with your partner and see what common ground can be reached
- Keep the temperature down and leave the discussions until the new year
This does not mean that urgent matters issued should be ignored. If there is any suggestion of violence, contact the police.
But hopefully, by focussing on giving the children a happy Christmas, some part of the Christmas magic can rub off on you both.