Going through a divorce or separation can be stressful at the best of times. But the stresses and strains can be amplified over the festive period.
It is common for couples to try to “keep-it-together” for the sake of the children, but emotions often run high throughout the holidays.
Getting through the season means careful planning and communication.
Here the team at Banner Jones Solicitors reveal how to get through Christmas when your relationship is on the rocks.
Choose your time
If you're planning to divorce and haven't yet told the children, consider whether you should so close to Christmas. It may help children if you have the discussion with them after Christmas.
If things are reasonably amicable, try mediation as your first step. This is a popular alternative to the court to making decisions. It helps couples decide what to do about the family home, the children and the assets and debts. It can also help everyone in the family 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 good of your children, it is essential to keep the 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 plan, though, things can go wrong: the weather or the kids being poorly can quickly throw a spanner in the works. Christmas is a magical time for children, and the excitement can wear them out.
Clear communication can help you deal with any problems that may arise and avoid conflict.
Don’t miss out
Events like the school Christmas show are as important for the children as they are for you. See if you can attend different performances and agree who attends which one well in advance. Make sure you inform the school that your circumstances have changed. That will avoid any awkwardness and allow the school to contact parents individually.
Some parents resort to a “Specific Issue Order” under section eight of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989). This gives directions for determining a specific question that has arisen, or that may arise, relating to any aspect of parental responsibility for your children, such as where they stay at Christmas.
Getting away from it all
You – or your ex-partner – may want to take the children away at Christmas. As long as the trip is within the England and Wales, technically you do not need the permission of any other parent or carer with parental responsibility.
If you're going aboard, a letter from the other parent/carer is usually enough to remove them from the jurisdiction.
It is highly recommended to speak with all parties involved and, if in doubt, get legal advice.
If a contact order or Children Arrangement Order is in place, you must make sure the child available for contact as stated, unless otherwise agreed.
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 carry weight; they have the option to decide for themselves.
Be open and honest
Good communication helps to reduce disappointment and frustration. Whether it's by email, text, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, make sure you have written confirmation of plans regarding the children. This helps to avoid confusion, and if any further legal action is required, both parties have written evidence.
To speak to the Banner Jones team about your circumstances, go to https://www.bannerjones.co.uk/ to find your local office.