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Tips for separated parents at Christmas

12:40 19 October 2016


Some guidance for separated parents by Veronica Gilmour

As Christmas approaches, the prospect of having to organise all the presents, food and entertaining is often quite daunting but, if you have recently separated or divorced, it can be an extremely challenging period, particularly if you have to negotiate the minefield of where and with whom the children are to spend Christmas and the New Year period.

Emotions can run very high as the big day approaches as it’s a special time of year for adults and children alike and everyone feels under pressure to make it as magical as possible. While it may be tempting to leave the arrangements to the last minute, that is not fair on anyone and having to make an emergency application to the court if there is a dispute is never a good position to find yourself in.

Here are some tips for coping with Christmas that should help the festive season run smoothly:

• Plan well ahead and agree the arrangements well in advance. If you are struggling to reach agreement, perhaps consider mediation as your first port of call. Mediators are very adept at dealing with these issues and can do so in a timely and relatively cheap way.

• Aim to share a child’s Christmas list with your ex-partner/ spouse if possible and to agree who will buy what to avoid disappointment for all concerned on Christmas morning. It is also helpful if an agreement can be reached about the amount of money to be spent on the child and whether there should be a joint present from the parents. Avoid getting caught in a cycle of trying to outdo the other parent - while your child may feel that this is to their advantage, in the long run it is not.

• By making the arrangements early, you will also know which days you are going to be without your children and can make plans to spend them with other family members and friends rather than being alone. On the other hand, many people cherish the time alone and, if you are one of those, then be confident enough to turn down those social invitations that really don’t interest you. Christmas

is only another day and, if you don’t want to be on your own, there are many organisations looking for volunteers over the Christmas period.

• Although it maybe difficult at times, try to remain positive about the arrangements for the sake of the children. The reality is that it may not be possible to spend the whole of the Christmas period with them but you should make the most of the time that you do have together.

• Finally, don’t forget how unsettling Christmas can be for the children too. When you were altogether as a family, you will have had shared traditions over Christmas. Think about whether it’s appropriate to continue them or whether to start new ones.

Sadly, this is also a time of year when many parents decide to stay together for one last Christmas before separating in the New Year. This will undoubtedly be a stressful time for all the family but focus on the reasons why you have stayed together, try to put your differences behind you, call a truce on arguments, and put the needs of your children first. Just try to have the happiest Christmas possible.

For advice on the full range of family law issues, please contact Veronica Gilmour in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches on 01483 791 800 or visit our website at


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