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Most family lawyers will agree that the run up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. This weekend I spent most of Saturday morning talking to and reading emails from clients who are embroiled in the Court system and having to consider applications to the Court to secure time with their children over the Christmas holiday. I have similar numbers of calls and emails from parents distraught at the idea of not being able to spend Christmas day with their children because the children now have 2 homes rather than one post separation.

With this in mind I thought it would be helpful to set out tips to alleviate the stress at this time of year.

Tip One

Christmas Day is just another day! There is pretty good evidence that Jesus could have been born on any day over a 3 year period at some point between November and February. The Winter solstice is the 21st December….and for the majority of world religions outside of Christianity Christmas Day has no significance whatsoever. Father Christmas is magic and can deliver presents on other days…….

If you are not able to be with your children on 25th December have ‘Christmas Day’ on another day over the holiday period. Frozen turkeys are available all year round…..

Tip Two

If you are spending Christmas Day without your children because they are with their other parent plan something. Christmas can be depressing and if this is your first Christmas as a separated parent it is important to prepare. It can seem as though the whole world is full of happy people on Christmas day if you are alone. You may have family or friends you could spend the day with, you could volunteer to help out in an old peoples’ home, homeless shelter, or animal shelter, you could have an anti-Christmas, you could go for a walk, you could invite some one round and spend the day together – Frozen turkey crowns, legs or breasts are also available….

Tip Three

Unless you and the other parent of your children get on extremely well avoid sharing Christmas Day. Handovers on Christmas Day can be stressful. Children like to play with the presents they have received and may not want to go out. Christmas dinner is rarely on time which can make an agreement to collect the children at 2pm when dinner is finished almost impossible to stick to. If hand overs are usually difficult then this can make the children anxious before they are collected. Many people enjoy a glass of wine or beer on Christmas day – this can heighten the emotions and if the children are late, don’t want to go, don’t want to come back, mum can’t resist a dig at dad or vice versa the day can be ruined for all concerned. Better to have Christmas Day on another day than ruin Christmas Day for the children (see Tip One).

Tip Four

If you know that you and the other parent are not going to be able to agree arrangements for Christmas Day or the holidays you need to see a solicitor urgently. The courts are extremely busy at this time of year – my recommendation is that you should only be going to Court now on an urgent application if the other parent is refusing to allow you any time at all or if there are safeguarding issues. (see Tip One). Your children are for life and not just for Christmas – the long term arrangements and security for the children are far more important than one holiday.

Tip Five

Whatever you decide to do over Christmas day or over the holidays ….read the instruction on your frozen turkey and ensure it is properly defrosted. A frozen turkey and food poisoning on Boxing Day is certain to make Christmas fairly stressful!

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