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Christmas often a tough time for children following divorce

View profile for Steven Payne
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Child experts are clear that the most important factor in a child’s healthy development is the stable and healthy relationship of their parents. Yet the sad fact is that half of all children in Britain are no longer living with both parents by the time they reach 16.

When the parents’ relationship breaks down, the child’s development suffers, often leading to bad behaviour and performance at school, health issues and sometimes sadly, involvement with drugs or gangs, the failure to get a job or settle down and marry a partner.

For much of the year, many of the troubles of broken homes can be brushed under the carpet. But at Christmas, they cannot be avoided. In many instances, Christmas time is all about continuing the hostilities that should have been concluded at divorce.

Countless children spend hours driving along motorways between homes on Christmas Day, forced to down their dinners at one house and then eat again a few hours later, many miles and hours away. They are uprooted from one set of family celebrations and dumped into the middle of another. Nor are they always universally welcomed by, sibling rivalries and resentment from step-brothers and step-sisters bubbling away below the surface. They are inevitably made to feel like intruders. On top of that, they are constantly told how ‘lucky’ they are to be having ‘two Christmases’. The reality is generally very different.

In this area, the behaviour of some parents beggars belief. One divorced couple refused to agree whose responsibility it was to ferry the children from one place to the other on Christmas Day, which in itself is not uncommon. They instead met halfway at a motorway service station: that way, they made equal journeys. But as the parents could not bear to see each other, they parked on opposite sides of the car park and made the children walk across the Tarmac between their cars.

There are, however, some small crumbs of comfort in this area. The divorce rate, for example, has stabilised and the rate of marriage breakdown for couples in their 20s and 30s has plummeted in the past ten years. Young people are getting married later and their relationships are lasting longer.

Statistics suggest that the main culprits are the 'baby boomer' generation, who were able to experiment with divorce and stepfamilies when these had previously been taboo. That generation's children appear to have learned lessons about managing relationship, often the hard way.

If you are going through a separation, or know someone who is we are here to help and can provide advice and assurance so that you and your family can move forward. We offer a free half hour assessment. Our lawyers Steven Payne can be contacted on 01245 228106 and at paynes@gepp.co.uk and Sarah Overy on 01245 228132 and at overys@gepp.co.uk

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.