Christmas is seen primarily as a time for family and loved ones and is a magical time of the year for children. There is the anticipation of the presents they may receive, the relief of having a few weeks off school and the excitement of seeing friends and family.
This makes it a particularly difficult time for those in a divorced family. When going through a divorce, you lose a loved one who you would normally spend the Christmas period with. Naturally then, if there are children involved in the breakup, neither party will want to lose precious time with their children over this time of year.
Seasonal and festive holidays like Christmas can be really hard for parents not living with their children. Divorced parents around the Christmas period often feel jealous, lonely, sad, angry and resentful. Instead of a period of festivity, it can be a time of heartbreak. Separated families may feel as though everyone else is enjoying the perfect family festivities, while they feel more isolated and alone than during the rest of the year.
This situation can be distressing and tense. From a legal point of view and child law perspective, it can be very frustrating for non-resident parents if the resident parent doesn’t grant access over Christmas. However, at this festive time, the last thing kids need is warring parents fighting over who gets custody on the all-important Christmas day.
To make sure your child has a wonderful and stress-free Christmas this year, we are offering parents in the process of divorce or who have recently divorced some advice when trying to agree on arrangements for their children over the festive period.
Talk to your former partner now about what you would like to happen and how to ensure you both get to spend quality time with your child. Take into account the fact that each of you will want a chance to see your child open their presents and to spend time with members of your respective families you may not see that often.
However, you should be ensuring that your child’s best interests are at heart when planning. It can be tempting to feel like you deserve time regardless of the difficulty but your child may not see it like this.
Talk to Your Child
If your child is old enough to understand what is going on, then it is a good idea to explain the arrangements you have agreed. While young children may be happy to fit in with your plans, teenagers may have plans of their own which need to be considered. It is not their fault that the split has occurred and their desires should be taken into account.
Christmas is a busy time of the year, with school plays and parties as well as family commitments to fit in. Whatever their age, knowing which parent they will be with and when, and if they are likely to see you together, can help avoid uncertainty and anxiety.
Agree on Handover Arrangements
Think about how your child will move between you. Arrangements need to be practical and not unnecessarily disruptive. Think about transport arrangements if one or both of you are likely to have had a drink and how you will accommodate your child’s almost inevitable desire to take presents they have already opened with them. Consider asking family or friends to get involved in collecting or dropping off your child if this would help.
Some parents find that alternating Christmases works well so that each parent is guaranteed to have every other Christmas with their child and on their year off they may have them on Boxing Day instead. Others are happy to split Christmas Day in half so that one parent has their child on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and the other has them Christmas afternoon and for most of Boxing Day.
This however only works if the two families live close or extended family are close to one of the parents. Is it really fair on the child or children to be spending the Christmas period in the car for 3 hours to one parent just to leave the next day? Sometimes you will need to put the children’s comfort before your own desires.
Get Help If You Need It
If you and your former partner cannot agree on arrangements for your child that work for everyone, talk to your solicitor about how mediation could help. Sometimes, working with a neutral person with no vested interest in the outcome (other than the happiness of your child) can help to resolve deep-rooted differences in opinion and find creative solutions you may not have previously considered.
If you have a court order in place, it is likely that the question of what will happen at Christmas will have already been agreed, but it is still possible that problems may arise. This is particularly true if you or your former partner wants to make different arrangements this year.
How to Make Time Together Special
The time that you spend with your children over Christmas should be special. Many separated parents try to outdo each other, which is likely to lead to stress and disappointment, as you often can’t live up to the expectations and may end up feeling second best.
Similarly, non-resident parents sometimes feel that they must compete with their child’s other parent when it comes to buying presents. When one parent is spending a large number of expensive gifts or taking the children on a costly holiday, the other parent may feel that he or she can’t offer the same amount. This can lead to heartache, as parents may feel like they have let their children down if they cannot afford to compete.
Even if you may not be the team, you should still be a team as parents. Be sure you communicate with your ex-partner as to what they are buying and come to an agreement. Ensure that you include your children in conversations where possible as to what they want and if there are some presents they can’t get this year.
Getting Support for Your Divorce
Are you going through a divorce in Scotland? Cath Karlin Family Law is an experienced specialist family law practice based in Edinburgh which will help you carry out the separation in the most respectful and dignified way possible – with the best interests of your children always in mind.
If you need any further assistance regarding information regarding matrimonial separation or any other family law queries, please don’t hesitate to get in contact and we’ll do all we can to help.