While Christmas is a time for bringing families together, unfortunately it is also a time when family disputes can occur. 

As a family lawyer of some 18 years experience I have long noted the seasonal nature of family law work, and in particular that there is an increase in family law enquiries over, or just after, the Christmas season. I imagine it has something to do with people having increased time together, the high expectation to make the holiday “special”, financial concerns and an abundance of alcohol, creating issues for some families. 

Given it is also the end of the new year perhaps it is a time for “new beginnings” and moving on with a new chapter of people’s lives and deciding to make a change.

For people who are already in dispute, Christmas can be a source of loneliness, anxiety and conflict over children’s arrangements.  Christmas holiday time and uncertainty in terms of the future can make this time of year very difficult for some people when it seems as though the rest of the world is celebrating.

What can you do to make the best out of separated parenting at Christmas?

The best answer is come to an agreement, and if you’re already in a dispute in the lead up to Christmas make sure you leave plenty of time to negotiate. Court dates can be hard to obtain in the lead up to Christmas. 

In negotiating arrangements, it is important to think in a way that promotes what is best for the children. To use a lawyer phrase, maintain “child focus”. 

This means that both parents should consider what the holiday means from the children’s perspective, when they might like to see the other parent, what are their practical needs around the holiday, and are there any safety considerations. 

Christmas is about creating memories for children, so in my view it is important in making these arrangements to think about how the children may remember the particular Christmas. 

It is also likely that the separation is something the children are coming to terms with, and thus an amicable agreement at Christmas time is going to allow them to be a bit more relaxed, reassured and enjoy their Christmas holiday time.

If you are in a situation where your ex-partner is difficult or unreasonable, early planning, good legal advice, child focus and staying calm will assist you to negotiate your way through the difficult time. 

Planning and good legal advice assists you to stay calm, knowing that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” in terms of an outcome being worked towards. 

Conversely, staying calm and child focused facilitates outcomes being achieved that are favourable for you and your children.

What about separating during the Christmas break?

Even more stressful is relationship breakdown during the holiday period. Most lawyers take time off over this period and Court dates can be difficult to obtain in all but the most urgent of matters.

Again, the recommendation is to stay as calm as possible, stay child focused and get some advice as soon as you can. As said above, advice provides you with direction and reassurance which can help you stay calm. Also, be careful what you say, text or email if there is alcohol around.

During the Christmas and New Year period in 2019 we are closed from 24 December 2019 until Monday, 6 January 2020. But …while we are closed we are never too far away and if you desperately need some assistance for family law on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane we can be contacted via email to assist at peter.hooper@hooperfamilylawyers.com.au

Stay safe and have a happy Christmas.

If your matter is going to court and you need assistance, contact Hooper Family Lawyers at Victoria Point on (07) 3207 7663; or Hooper Family Lawyers Coolangatta on (07) 5599 3026.

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