Separated families at Christmas

15 Nov 2019

Christmas lights will be twinkling on High Streets across the country imminently; that thought takes me back to a time in my youth when Christmas loomed with a certain amount of dread.

My parents separated when I was 16.  My brother was just two years old at that time.  Our first Christmas as a separated family was a difficult prospect.  It had always been a big deal in our family, and a time when we came together as one.  For the first time I would spend Christmas without one of my parents and I knew that as my brother grew older, he would have to spend this holiday between two homes.

The first Christmas was the hardest.  I distinctly remember my mother crying as she filled my brother’s stocking on Christmas Eve.  I lacked the maturity and life experience to know how to properly comfort her, and it distressed me to see her so upset.  Of course we put on a brave face for my brother and were up early with him the next day to watch him eagerly open his gifts; after lunch he was taken off to celebrate a second Christmas day with my father.

It is this insight into the separated family that encouraged me to pursue a career in family law and to assist families in addressing these sorts of issues.  Navigating this holiday is the hardest for all separated families. 

Both parents want to see their excited children go to bed on Christmas Eve, and the delight on their faces the next day as they open their presents.  This can lead to very difficult conversations, with both parents insisting that the children spend Christmas Eve and Day with them; the result might be conflict and disagreement at a time of year that should be about joy and celebration.  As a parent myself I can only imagine how hard I would find it to be away from my young children on Christmas Day. 

As an experienced family lawyer and mediator, I have learned over the years how to work with parents to ensure that constructive and open conversations can be had about how children will spend Christmas well ahead of the holiday.  An open dialogue with sensitive and creative legal advice, will minimise conflict and lead to agreement.  This will be in your children’s best interests - they will not have to feel guilty about being with one parent and not the other, and free to enjoy the Christmas celebrations.

So if you are finding it difficult to negotiate this holiday, then get in touch.  We can help resolve this issue so that the whole family can look forward to the Christmas break.

Samantha Jago is a family law partner and mediator.  If these issues affect you call her on 01483 467437, email her on

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