THE holiday season isn’t always a happy time for parents heading for, or in, a relationship meltdown, says lawyer Catherine Coles.“Separated couples with children, who are facing their first holiday season apart, may experience communication and other difficulties,” she says.
“While circumstances vary, the fallout can include depression, tension, isolation and extreme anxiety for everyone – including, sadly, the children.
Coles, a family lawyer with the Canberra office of Watts McCray, says it’s important to put the children’s needs first and remember it is not the child’s role to create a harmonious environment over the holidays.
“In these situations, in particular, a blissful, hassle-free Christmas can be a big ask,” she says. “But having realistic expectations and applying some practical tips can help ease the pain.”
Her tips include:
• Planning as much as possible in advance to avoid flare-up arguments.
• Communicating calmly and in a friendly tone.
• Respecting family traditions and aiming for as little disruption as possible.
• Compromising and aiming to be fair so the children can have the best of both worlds.
• Being civil, no matter how hard it is, and making sure any disagreements are out of earshot of the children
• Using technology to make communication possible, such as “visits” through Skype.
“When sparks fly, some parents rush to the phone to seek legal advice,” says Coles. “Being on the phone to your lawyer all the time during the holidays can be costly. It is often best to concentrate on your legal options after the emotionally charged Christmas period is over.
“If all else fails during the festive season, definitely get legal advice from an expert. Choose a firm with leading family law specialists and years of experience, and never enter into protracted discussions without first requesting a detailed fee schedule from the lawyer you are engaging.”