23 DEC 2016

Contact at Christmas

Kent Messenger Column - 23-12-16 

Most of us would agree that Christmas is an extra special time for children, but sadly not for all of them. In the months and weeks leading up to the big day there will have been harsh words, open animosity, social media abuse, threats and sometimes violence between separated parents doing tug-of-war over contact arrangements with the kids.

During my 23 years as a family lawyer the seasonal surge of clients seeking help and advice over contact was as predictable as the next pope being a Catholic. It was my role to help them negotiate a fair, reasonable and appropriate arrangement, agreed by both sides – not an easy ask.

Some folk will have separated on reasonable terms but anyone who has seen the black comedy movie 'War of the Roses' will have witnessed how the adversarial nature of divorce can completely destroy the delicate remains of a relationship. A film of fiction it may be, but I can tell you that fact is often more shocking.

With the parties torn asunder the children can become pawns on the battlefield, and what is best for them is often lost amidst the clouds of conflict.

But in my experience some parents, perhaps through the support of their wider families, do seem to find a little something extra in the bank of goodwill at Christmas; just enough to flip disagreement about child contact into a workable compromise. And that single act of humility from both parties is often all that is needed to improve relations going forward.

There are around two million single parents in the UK making-up a quarter of families with dependent children. There are over 2,600 in my constituency of Maidstone & The Weald and many tussle with tough contact problems. For help and guidance go to www.gingerbread.org.uk or call their single parent helpline on 0808 802 0925. My best wishes to you all this Christmas.

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