Coping with the Festive period when you are divorced or separated

Coping with the Festive period when you are divorced or separated

Christmas is a time for families. However when that family is in the process of splitting up this can change the festive season into a nightmare. Neale Grearson Head of the Clapham & Collinge Family Department, reflects on the problems families face during the festive period.

The Christmas holidays are one of the key periods when already strained relationships can be fatally brought to an end. The first week in January is when the greatest number of Divorce Petitions are issued across the country and the first Monday in January has been termed Divorce Day as a result.

For those families that have split up during the year a first Christmas apart can bring with it particular problems. Parents have to arrange what time their children spend with each of them inevitably resulting in both parents being unhappy. Routines that may have been in place for many years all of a sudden have to change.

The stresses surrounding the Christmas festivities can be huge. If a relationship is already under pressure putting a couple together for over a week 24 hours a day can have a fatal effect on the relationship. A time of enjoyment can turn very quickly into trauma and the ending of a marriage or relationship.

Across England and Wales the largest number of Divorce Petitions are filed during the first week in January. Nearly one in two marriages now end in divorce with the biggest increase being in the over 65's often called "saga divorces".

In the run up to Christmas parents need to agree the arrangements for their children to spend time with each of them. This can be fraught with difficulties especially when it is the first Christmas after their family has split up. Both parents will inevitably have less time with their children than they would have liked and hoped for with compromises having to be made. Unfortunately the Courts are presented with many last minute Applications by parents for a Judge to determine how much contact should take place over Christmas and beyond.

The Good Divorce Group launched in October 2012, of which Neale is a member, is made up of collaborative lawyers, mediators and arbitrators committed to finding a better alternative than the adversarial approach used at Court. Reaching agreement on arrangements over the Christmas period is vital even if it means that both parents do not get all they would ideally want.

Even if a divorce has taken place sometime before Christmas it is still over this holiday period that problems are magnified. Parents need to remember that even if they divorce each other they do not divorce their children and they remain Mum and Dad. This is the case at Christmas and for the remainder of the year.

Christmas will inevitably result in more heartbreak and distress to parents experiencing Christmas alone for the first time. Dealing with the emotional impact of this can be the most important aspect but avoiding the "I will see you in Court" approach is also vital.

If you are experiencing family issues, please contact the Family Law team on 01603 693500 or email

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