Enjoying Christmas and Other Family Celebrations After Separation

December 2018

By Lisa Wagner & Prue Hawkes

Australian’s love a celebration.

If you’re not convinced, scroll back to recent photos of kids in their Halloween regalia or think about your walk down the aisle of your local supermarket in the first week in October seeing the shelves already stocked with tinsel and stockings.

Making decisions about how your family celebrates these special occasions can be difficult. With all the wonderful events and facilities available to us on Sydney’s North Shore we are really spoilt for choice. Willoughby Carols in the Park, Mosman Carols by Candlelight at Balmoral Rotunda, and Pymble Carols in the Park, just to name a few Christmas events in this area.

It doesn’t change when you separate. In fact managing celebrations for your family after separation can present even greater challenges.

Trying to cram two celebrations into one day, even when you live in close proximity to your former spouse, can lead to mounting tensions and frayed nerves.

It can be particularly tough trying to reach agreement with your ex-spouse about how your children will spend special occasions each year.

There are really sound options available to separating families to resolve these differences and avoid extraordinary delays and costs that are incurred when the Court gets involved.

First and foremost it is important to be open minded and embrace marking these celebrations in different ways. In all separations where children are involved the paramount principle is determining what is in their best interests. When deciding how to provide for special occasions in family law matters it is important to really place the children’s interests first.

As children get older their wishes become more important. If your children love spending time with their cousins on Christmas night then, even after separation, it is important that you do all things possible so as to make that happen. If there is a history of an Easter egg hunt at Nanny’s home then try not to make arrangements so that they will miss out on that fun. Make plans that will work for them.

Not only do plans for special occasions need to be very child focussed, they also need to be flexible. Not all family celebrations are set in stone from year to year. It usually works best if you try to accommodate these arrangements to ensure that your children enjoy the best that each of you and your respective extended families can offer.

After separation some families choose to alternate occasions each year. In even numbered years Christmas might be spent with Mum and Easter with Dad and then in odd numbered years the children will spend Christmas with Dad and Easter with Mum. Other families decide to “split” these special occasions so that the children can spend some time with both Mum and Dad each year. This can work well for families who live in very close proximity of each other. Otherwise it can be disastrous, especially for the children…sitting in a car for two or more hours on Christmas Day is simply not their idea of fun and remember it’s really about them.

Also, remember that special occasions are special because you make them special…when couples separate it may be time to think about creating new traditions. If your children will be with the other parent on Christmas Day consider creating a Christmas Eve celebration. If your children are with the other parent at Easter time invent a new Anzac Day tradition of trips to Balmoral Beach, Clifton Gardens or Naremburn Park. You can even see fireworks on Darling Harbour on a Saturday night if you want to organise your own child-friendly mid-year New Year’s Eve celebration!

There is a good chance that you will find everything you need in your local shopping centre to quickly make that party happen. Because Australians love a celebration, you can almost guarantee that you will be able to find party gear for almost any public holiday which certainly makes it easier to “get into the spirit” and really celebrate with your children. And just like you would at Easter or Christmas, make sure to get photos or keepsakes of your celebration so you can remember and have real records of the happy times spent with your children in years to come.

Reaching agreement with your ex-spouse about any matter can be difficult. Special occasions can bring even greater angst.

I am sure that if most of you were asked what Christmas means to you then typical answers would be “stockings” or “Christmas dinner” and “presents under the tree”.

Don’t forget that Christmas also symbolises new birth and new beginnings. Coming just on the tail end of Christmas is a brand new year and all that represents.

In family law matters, especially when considering special occasions, reminding yourself about the message of “new beginnings” can help you adjust to the necessary changes that separation brings and ensure that you and your family continue to celebrate and enjoy special occasions for many years to come.

Finally, none of these tips on their own are likely to achieve success. It is critical that you learn to communicate with your ex-spouse (even if that is just by way of email or text) so that everybody understands what arrangements are in place and what is expected of them, and nobody, most importantly the children, are disappointed.

So to recap, some helpful suggestions to ensure you reignite the “celebration” in your celebrations after separation:

  1.  Remain child focussed.
  1.  Be flexible in your thinking.
  1.  Create new traditions.
  1.  Be clear and certain about arrangements.
  1.  Keep the channels of communication open.

These tips will all ensure that you and your family continue to enjoy and celebrate special occasions even in the event that your family have separated.

If you are experiencing a separation, haven’t made plans for an upcoming celebration or special occasion, and really don’t know what step to take next or how to handle the situation and do what is best for your kids then please get in touch with us at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on (02) 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au. We are conveniently located in St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. We offer accredited family law specialists to help you with parenting and all family law matters.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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