Staying together at Christmas

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the family all huddled round and glittering Christmas tree laden with presents whilst in the distance carol singers can be heard going door to door, trudging through fresh fallen snow.

Whilst this may be the idyllic view of Christmas, for many, especially those involved in family difficulties, the reality can be far, far different.

It is a sad fact that one of the busiest times of the year for Family solicitors is the period immediately after the traditional Christmas holiday. At Coley & Tilley Solicitors, we understand how at a time when family are supposed to be brought closer together, spending Christmas with a separating partner can make a festive period the most miserable time of the year.

For this reason we have come up with 12 practical steps designed to manage family conflict over the Christmas holiday, in what we call the ’12 steps to staying together at Christmas’.

1. Sharing the workload. A lot of work goes into Christmas and particularly Christmas Day. It can be a major gripe that can easily escalate if one of you is slaving in the kitchen whilst the other sits back watching TV. Ask what can be done to help – even if it’s peeling a few potatoes the gesture will be greatly appreciated.
2. Fighting. Please try not to loose your temper over the festive period. Remember police officers celebrate Christmas too!
3. Being alone. Sadly many separated couples are going to spend this Christmas on their own, possibly for the first time in many years and this can be a very sad time especially for those who did not want their relationships to end. If you fall into this category, the tendency will be to wallow in despair. Why not instead do something you’ve not done for many years such as book a holiday, go for a day out or simply pamper yourself. For the first time, this Christmas is about you!
4. New partners. Whilst many don’t admit it, the majority of relationships fail due to third parties. If you are in that category, you may be spending Christmas with someone other than the one you love. Whilst it may be tempting to go out, be on the phone or texting, spare a thought for your partner and the effect your actions will have on them Turn the phone off, if only for a few hours.
5. Booze. It’s all too easy to have that extra glass of something sparkling on Christmas Day. We all know the effect that it can have on loosening tongues though, and whilst it might seem a good idea to say what you’ve always wanted to, you will regret it on Boxing Day!
6. Children. Remember Christmas is primarily about them, not you. As such make sure Christmas remains special for them whatever else is going on and keep them away from difficulties as best as possible.
7. Money troubles. It is easy to either go overboard or over compensate at Christmas. If money is tight, keep it simple, remember its the gesture not the cost. Most children prefer the box it comes in anyway.
8. The Den & Angie ‘grand gesture’. Don’t hand your partner court papers on Christmas Day or announce the marriage is over when your partner is slicing the turkey. Nothing good will ever come out of it.
9. Taking time out. If you are struggling, take time out, go for a walk with the dog or even better, a jog to work off some of that Christmas pudding. You’ll feel far better for it.
10. Expectations. For separating couples the idyllic view of a family Christmas, quite simply will not happen this year. In such cases, manage your expectations. A successful Christmas for you might just be remaining civil with your partner and not letting your emotions get the better of you.
11. In-laws. The prospect of your ‘in-laws’ who you are sure have never liked you can fill anyone with dread, especially if they are aware of your family difficulties. Try not to rise to the bait and remember they will soon be gone. On the plus side this might be your last Christmas seeing them…!
12. If all else fails, call us for a free confidential chat on 2nd January 2013. We are happy to help you!

If you require advice on family law matters, please contact Jane Barclay jb@coleyandtilley.co.uk or Christopher Lloyd Smith at cls@coleyandtilley.co.uk