New research shows the problems that separated parents face during the Christmas period with loneliness, money, travel and interfering ex-partners being flagged as major concerns.
Specialist family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, along with the Voices in the Middle charity, are urging separated couples to put their children first as they approach the holiday period as modern families are often more complicated in their make up with second and third marriages becoming more common in the past decade.
Official statistics show that around 50,000 children are involved in divorces each year meaning many young people will be facing Christmas as part of a separated family for the first time this year.
Now a survey of 1,000 separated parents by Irwin Mitchell shows that 75% of children are under 15 years old when facing their first holiday season since the family split.
The research also shows that 30 per cent of parents who have children from a previous relationship will not see their child on Christmas day while two thirds of parents say they don’t make agreements with their ex-partner on how much they are each going to spend on their children
Just 38% of parents will let their child decide where to spend Christmas but the majority (61%) of children will wake up on Christmas Day morning at their mother’s house.
The top two greatest challenges reported by mothers during their first Christmas spent as a divorced/separated parent were finding the money to fund Christmas (29%) and loneliness (19%). While fathers said they were most worried by loneliness (28%) and the distance they had to travel to see their child (19%).
Martin Loxley, head of the national family law team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Christmas can be a tough time of year for some as there is a huge emphasis on spending time with family and friends and it can mean there are tricky decisions for parents to make.
“Modern families are now more complicated with second and third marriages more common than a decade ago and it raises more issues in terms of contact with children and other members of the family such as grandparents.
“Our research has found that Christmas may be very different for both mothers and fathers with all parents potentially facing some difficult decisions and choices on behalf of their children.
“We would advise people to try not to make the holiday period more stressful than it already is, especially as most children facing a separated festive period for the first time are under 15-years-old and clearly will be relying on their parents to help things run as smooth as possible. There will likely have to be compromises and agreements and it is important that children are always the first priority.
“Common problems that get reported to us by divorcing couples include using Christmas presents to points score with children and not compromising on travel and contact arrangements. With the courts strongly favouring both parents being involved in a child’s life where possible, it’s important that parents try to put aside their differences and appreciate the other parent’s point of view too at this potentially tricky time of year.”
Irwin Mitchell works closely with the charity Voices in the Middle which helps support young people through separation and divorce by providing them with advice from others in similar situations.
Duncan Fisher, founder of Voices in the Middle, said: “Holiday periods should be a time when people are excited about spending time together and with their children but obviously for separated couples this can be the cause of tension which can have a major impact on those involved. We aim to provide a voice for young people who may not always be able to have their voices heard or know who to talk to.
“The research by Irwin Mitchell shows the struggles that many parents, and children, face over Christmas and it is only by good communication and trying to work together that parents will be able to make the most out of the festive season.”
The charity Voices in the Middle can be found here http://voicesinthemiddle.org.uk/