Let’s Put the Children First This Christmas

Tindall Gask Bentley Family Lawyer Wendy Barry writes about divorce and Christmas, and managing the stress of the child custody issues that can come with it.


Tindall Gask Bentley Family Lawyer Wendy Barry writes about divorce and Christmas, and managing the stress of the child custody issues that can come with it.

‘Tis the season to be jolly but for many families Christmas represents a most stressful, and for some, a very lonely time.<--break->

When couples separate their Christmas is often not a celebration but a nightmare of fighting over arrangements for children.

For years I have dealt with parties who are so hellbent on inflicting the maximum amount of control and pain on each other that they are blinded to the damage and hurt they are doing to their children.

However, it is always refreshing when I come across parents who are able to adopt a child-focussed approach and make Christmas care arrangements that put the children first.

If you are in the position of having to share the children this Christmas and you are struggling with how it will work try to follow these tips to make a good Christmas for everyone, and in particular the children.

Communicate with the other parent to make arrangements to spend time with the children.  If you cannot speak directly with the other parent then consider sending an email, a text message or using a trusted intermediary to communicate with your former partner on your behalf.  Before contact is made with the other parent be sure you know times, dates and handover venues so that arrangements can be made without too much to-ing and fro-ing.

Be flexible.  If for some reason the children cannot spend time with the other parent on Christmas day try to make the children available by telephone or Skype.

Plan early – now is not too soon!  With just weeks to go many parents will be putting arrangements into place for the festive period and some plans may not be capable of being changed to accommodate late requests. 

Put the children first.  Try to put to one side whatever emotions might get in the way of you being able to think of the children first.  In most cases, it is important for children to be able to see both parents on Christmas.  Remember that children love to give their parents a Christmas present – either one they have made or bought.  Perhaps help the children make something special or take the children out shopping to buy a gift for the other parent.

Don’t forget the grandparents.  Often grandparents are overlooked and miss out on seeing their grandchildren.  Sometimes the greatest collateral damage in a separation is suffered by grandparents who previously might have been significantly involved in their grandchildren’s lives.

Be polite. This may seem obvious, but the hostility of the moment sometimes gets in the way and the basic rules of being polite can be overlooked.  Diplomacy will take you far further than aggression.

Be punctual.  Christmas day is usually busy and can involve having to be at numerous places in the one day.  It does not help to keep either your former partner or the children waiting for handovers to occur. 

Seek help.  Where you are unable to negotiate with your ex-partner yourself, you should consider mediation through agencies like Relationships Australia, CentreCare or Family Relationships Centres.  If mediation is not appropriate for you then you should consider seeking the support and involvement of a lawyer.

TGB is South Australia’s largest family law firm and also has offices in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.  Contact your nearest office for further information or legal assistance.