A Guide for Separated Parents at Christmas

With 10 sleeps until Santa comes (as I was so excitedly told by my boss when I arrived in the office this morning!) our thoughts turn to friends, family, fizz, gifts, fizz, selection boxes, presents and of course, fizz! Christmas is usually a time for family, especially children. But, for separated families, it can be a time of increased pressure and unhappiness. You may find it incredibly hard to be away from your children for even a few hours on Christmas day but here are some helpful hints and pointers (from the centre for separated families) which may help make the day, and the rest of the holidays, a little easier for everyone. Maybe not for all, but fingers crossed.

If your children will spend time with both of you
Try to agree, as early as possible, how your children will spend time with each of you. It isn’t important that they spend exactly the same amount of time with you both. What’s important is that the time is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. Think about how it may be possible for your children to spend some quality time with both of you that allows everyone to get something of what they would like.

Make any hand-over as easy as possible
If your children will be spending time in two places, make sure that the transition is as simple as possible. The last thing your children want is to see their mum and dad arguing. Agree when, where and how your children will move between you. Stick to your agreement and contact each other if there needs to be any changes. If seeing each other is too difficult, think about people who may be able to help at hand-over such as grandparents or friends.

When time with both of you isn’t possible
If it is not possible for your children to spend time with both of you on the day, try to think about ways that you can share the celebration with your children at another time and make that as special as possible. A phone call on, or a special letter for the day can help children feel connected and reduce any anxiety. If your children’s other parent doesn’t seem interested, might it be possible to encourage them just to send a card?

Don’t compete over presents
Some separated parents find it possible to share present buying and giving. However, for many, this isn’t realistic. If you are buying presents separately, try to agree who will buy what. It can be very difficult if one parent has more money than the other. So try not to compete over who will buy the biggest or the best present – it just isn’t in your children’s best interests.

Think about extended family
Try to make time for grandparents, aunts and uncles if your children are used to seeing them at Christmas. If it is too difficult to spend time with them, then a phone call will help everyone stay in touch.

Think about new partners and other children
If there is a new partner in your life, think about how that will affect your arrangements. How will your children feel about that? How will your new partner feel about it? How will you children’s other parent feel about it? What about step-siblings and half-siblings? Try to find a way forward that means that as little friction as possible. But be honest about what you want, too.

Don’t require your children to make the decisions
It is important that children, especially younger ones, are not required to make decisions on your behalf. Talk to all the adults involved, talk to your children if they are old enough, decide what is best and then tell your children what has been decided.

When you are unable to see or contact your children
Being prevented from seeing or contacting your children, for whatever reason, is usually a very painful experience. Times of celebration can be especially difficult. Many parents in this position find their own way of marking the occasion. It can be helpful to try and make contact with other parents in a similar position as a way of offering and receiving support. If you are unable to buy your child a present or show them that you are thinking about them, you may wish to consider buying a different kind of gift. For example, you can name a star, adopt an animal, plant a tree or make a donation to a charity on their behalf.

Look after yourself
Christmas for separated families can be an emotionally difficult time. Not only for children, but for parents as well. This may be your first Christmas without your children or without your husband, wife or partner. Take some time to think about how you might feel and then think about ways of coping. If old traditions are too painful, create some new ones. If you won’t have chance to see your children, write a letter and raise a toast to them. If you are going to be on your own, with or without your children, think about whether you might spend some time with friends or relatives.

So hopefully some of this advice will be useful. No matter what, have as nice a day as possible. Get stuck into the big box of Quality Street (it’s Christmas so chocolate is allowed as soon as you open your eyes!), have some fizz (did I mention that?!) followed by a wee snooze before the last ever Downtown Abbey! And from all of us at MTM Family Law, Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2016.

Please note our offices are closed from 12 noon on Thursday 24th December 2015, until 9am on Tuesday 5th January 2016. If you require urgent family law advice during this time then please email us on general@mtmfamilylaw.co.uk.

A Christmas Crisis?

I love Christmas! The smell of newly fallen snow. Sparkly fairy lights everywhere. Carol singing on my doorstep. Children playing and laughing. Friends and family over for drinks and helping themselves to the plentiful, most delicious homemade fayre laid out beautifully on my table which has been lovingly decorated by angels sprinkling angel dust as they go……..

Ok, ok, that is how I often imagine Christmas! But in reality I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christmas like that – ever! Newly fallen snow means I can’t get the car out the drive, I’m late for wherever I have to be, I’m cranky and the kids are moaning as snow has got in their boots and made their tights wet. Children are usually squabbling over the remote control or which game to play next or who has eaten the last chocolate decoration from the tree without asking. My delicious homemade spread is quite possibly a selection of party offers from Iceland (or the local petrol station) and the angel dust is really just dust as I’ve not had time to clean the house as I’ve been too busy shopping, buying presents, writing Christmas cards and ferrying kids to social event after social event whilst at the same time trying to keep on top of homework, housework and an ironing mountain rivalling the size of Ben Nevis!

So is it any wonder that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year for couples where even the strongest of relationships can experience difficulties? If you add in overspending on Christmas presents, general financial strain, unrealistic expectations of the perfect Christmas and bad weather, not to mention over indulgence in food and alcohol then Christmas may not be so merry for some couples after all. That doesn’t even include the slaving in the kitchen whilst others chillax with a sherry or two (or 3,4,5,6,7…..), the lack of time for each other as you’re too busy or just exhausted – and probably best not to mention the arrival of the in-laws!

But, if after all the excitement (or stress) of the day is over, you still feel that there is more substance to the arguments than just Christmas, you may decide to turn your attention to legal advice in the New Year. Statistically, more couples separate in January than any other time of the year. Its really important to get good quality advice from specialist family lawyers if you are thinking of separating, or even if you just want to find out what your options are in the event that your marriage or cohabitation ultimately does go down the separation route. That’s where we come in. Get clear and concise advice before you rush into anything. You might want to consider relationship advice or counselling first. You might think mediation or collaborative law would be the best option for you, and then there’s arbitration to consider too. More information on the possible methods to resolve your family issues can be found on theRIGHTKINDOFDIVORCE.com.

Hopefully you won’t need our services, but if you do, we’re back after the holidays from Friday 3rd January 2014 at 10am. Despite the above, Christmas for many is a wonderful time of the year and from all the staff at MTM Family Law Specialists Glasgow, Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014.