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Cindy Ervine from the Family Law team at Awdry Bailey & Douglas offers some expert advice for separated parents

This year has been difficult for everyone and even more so if you are considering separation or divorce. We appreciate that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, but we are here to help guide you through the process. We will explain everything along the way in clear, practical terms to support you when making difficult decisions.

There are many things to consider when separating, such as where you will live, where the children will live and whether you will need to sell the family home or not. In the run up to Christmas it can be especially stressful, and this year in particular has not made things easy for anyone.

Start by focusing on your children, you should always try to put them first and be open and honest when you are talking to them about the situation. Try to avoid being negative about your ex-partner as this may make your children feel they need to ‘take sides’.

The Government has been very clear that children can move between separated parents during lockdown(s), and their relationship with both parents should be supported.

Adopting a policy of ‘if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it’ can really work, as turning against each other will only make the separation more difficult in the long run.

Of course, emotions will be running high, but if you can be amicable towards each other, even though it may hurt, you will spare your children from a lot of heartache. It is important that the children know that you both still care about them and love them. Reassuring them of this will really help them to process and deal with their own emotions.

We have put together some other tips to help separated parents with arrangements for Christmas:

  • How you communicate with the other parent is important. Try to keep your tone neutral during any discussions you have. Keep the conversation focused on your children.
  • Make it clear that it is important for your children to spend time with you both, but acknowledge that you will both have family commitments and will need to work around these to ensure you are both able to spend as much time as possible with your children.
  • You may wish to consider one parent spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning with the children and the other Christmas Day afternoon and Boxing Day. This can work well for both parents, as it means you both get to spend Christmas Day with your children. You could alternate this arrangement each year.
  • If one parent is unable to see the children on Christmas day, then consider other means of communication, such as a Whatsapp video call or a Skype call. Try to pick a time when the children will not be too distracted and tired, so that the call is enjoyable for both child and parent.
  • Once you have reached an agreement on the arrangements, consider making an electronic diary for you and your children. That way everyone knows how the arrangements will work and the children will know when they will be spending time with their other parent and extended family.
  • Your arrangements are a personal choice based on what works for your family, but this year in particular you should be prepared to be flexible, as plans may need to change.
  • Seek legal advice early on. Speaking to a member of our family law team about separation, divorce or child arrangements can really help, especially if you are struggling to communicate. Having someone who can offer sensible, practical advice can really make a difference and can take the strain out of making arrangements.

At Awdry Bailey & Douglas our friendly and experienced Family Law team are here to listen, to support and to advise you.

Click here to arrange your free initial consultation with a member of the team today and we will explain all your options, giving you the confidence to make the right decisions for everyone involved.