Relationship breakdown at Christmas

with Kelly Lamb - Sally Goldstone, Family Law



KELLY LAMB (right), is an assistant solicitor at Sally Goldstone Family Law. In this article she addresses the problems facing some families this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching – presents to buy and wrap, excited children writing extensive (and expensive) wish lists! Christmas is magical for children, a happy time when families enjoy the festivities together. But it’s not happy for every family – parents can find this time of year very stressful, with extra expenses, busy social calendars and lots to plan. It is particularly difficult if there is disharmony within a marriage or family unit.

Many parents stay together for the sake of the children leading up to the Christmas period and decide to go their separate ways in the New Year. January is usually a very busy time for family lawyers as Christmas can be a “breaking point” for an already unhappy family unit.

Whatever adult issues there are between two parents, they should both focus on protecting children from the fallout of separation. Parents often worry about the impact their parting will have on the children but it is often said that children are happier growing up in two happy homes than one unhappy home. Children are resilient and are more likely to adapt well to change when their parents work together to ensure that they spend quality time with them both.

Sadly it is sometimes difficult for parents to maintain an amicable relationship and the care arrangements for the children can become uncertain and inconsistent. Some parents do not see their children around the festive period and miss out on the joys that this time of year brings. Perhaps you have recently separated from a partner or intend to end a relationship. Perhaps you separated from your partner some time ago but are still facing difficulties in relation to the care arrangements of your children.

Most parents now share Parental Responsibility for a child that provides both of them with equal rights, duties, powers and responsibility for their child. Whilst it is often the case that one parent is the primary carer of a child, this does not mean that the other parent’s relationship with their child should be adversely effected.

It is always best for parents to reach an amicable agreement directly regarding the time that they spend with their children. When this is not possible, parents can seek legal advice to discuss their personal circumstances and consider sensible care arrangements for the children. A solicitor should encourage constructive negotiations with a view to resolving matters swiftly and cost effectively. If that is unsuccessful, a referral to mediation can be made where parents can meet with an independent mediator to discuss their concerns and hopefully reach agreement. As a last resort, court proceedings may be necessary, but with some helpful guidance from Judges, Magistrates and a member of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), agreement is still possible without the need for a fully contested hearing.

The Court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the children and the Court will make an Order that it considers to be in the children’s best interests. It is now common practice for parents to attend a conciliation meeting at Court with an independent Court appointed CAFCASS Officer before a Court Hearing. Conciliation is often very successful and many cases are settled by agreement at the first Court Hearing. If matters cannot be agreed, the Court will give directions to progress a case and ultimately a fully contested Final Hearing may become necessary, although this is not always required.

Children have the right to enjoy a close and loving relationship with both parents whenever possible. If you are experiencing difficulty in making arrangements with your former partner, or simply would like guidance in relation to your own situation, we are happy to meet with you. Please telephone 01792 456139 or email us at to make an appointment.


108 Walter Road, Swansea SA1 5QQ

Tel: 01792 456139





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