Communication is key for couples facing festive split
Careful planning and communication are crucial for separating couples who may be facing a challenging Christmas period, say experts.
Facing a divorce or separation can be stressful at the best of times, but the strains can be heightened during the festive season when emotions often run high.
It is common for couples to try to keep it together throughout the holidays for the sake of the children, but, according to the team at Banner Jones Solicitors, making it through the season when your relationship is on the rocks takes careful planning and communication.
Here are their tips to help separating couples survive Christmas:
Choose your time
If you're planning to divorce and haven't yet told the children, decide whether you should tell them so close to Christmas: they may be better off if you have the discussion with them after Christmas.
If things are reasonably amicable, mediation can be a positive first step. This is a popular alternative to the court to making decisions that helps couples decide what to do about the children, the family home, assets and debts; it can also help everyone to establish new working relationships.
If an agreement can’t be reached through mediation, a solicitor can help you to apply to the courts to decide what's best for your children.
For the sake of your children, it is vital to keep lines of communication open. If you have already separated, you’ll need to discuss who buys what Christmas presents for them, and where they’re going to spend Christmas Day: to provide stability, try to agree a childcare rota and a plan for school holidays.
No matter how carefully you prepare, though, things can go wrong, like sickness or bad weather – clear communication can help you avoid conflict and deal with any problems that may arise.
Don’t miss out
Events like the school Christmas play are as important for your children as they are for you. See if you can attend different performances and agree who goes to each well in advance.
Informing the school that your circumstances have changed will avoid any awkwardness and allow the school to contact parents individually.
If you really can’t sort it out between you, some parents resort to a Specific Issue Order under section eight of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989), which gives directions for determining a specific question that has arisen, or that may arise, relating to any aspect of parental responsibility for your children, like where they stay at Christmas.
Getting away from it all
You or your former partner may want to take the children away at Christmas: as long as the trip is within England and Wales, technically you do not need the permission of any other parent or carer with parental responsibility.
However it is highly recommended to speak with all parties involved and, if in doubt, get legal advice.
If you're going abroad, a letter from the other parent/carer is usually enough to remove them from the jurisdiction.
If a contact order or child arrangement order is in place, you must make sure the child is available for contact as stated, unless you have agreed otherwise.
What if the child wants to stay with the other parent?
From around secondary school age, the wishes and feelings of the child will become more important and carry more weight; they now have the option to decide for themselves.
Be open and honest
Whether it's by email, text, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, good communication can help to reduce disappointment and frustration. Ensuring you have written confirmation of plans regarding your children helps to avoid confusion and, if any further legal action is required, both parties have evidence.
Banner Jones Solicitors have an office in Sheffield as well as bases in Chesterfield, Mansfield, Dronfield, Nottingham and London. To speak to the Banner Jones team about your situation for legal advice and support, visit www.bannerjones.co.uk