We talked to Surry Hills based Family Law solicitor, Zachary Wilson, who is a senior associate of Reid Family Lawyers, about the impact of COVID-19 in the breakdown of relationships, especially in the lead up to Christmas.

“2020 has been a tough year for families. With the advent of COVID-19, many people lost their jobs or had their incomes cut. Social isolation meant being with your partner 24/7, which turned cracks in relationships into gaping chasms. Balancing home schooling with working from home was a tinder box for flare ups between couples who weren’t able to compromise in order to share the load. We have seen a huge spike in the number of enquiries from people looking for advice about ending their marriage or de facto relationship as the pressures of financial uncertainty and forced time together take their toll. Sadly, too, there was an enormous increase in incidences of family violence with victims unable to find refuge with friends and families because of social distancing.”

“On the back of ‘Rona”, adds Zachary, “Christmas is an added stress for families. Children of separated parents often have the common concern of whether Santa will be able to find them at their ‘other’ house.  And sadly, too many separated parents fuel this fear.

For separated parents, Christmas can also be a sad time. One of you won’t have the excitement of waking up with your children on Christmas Day, there may be anxiety around changeover arrangements if you split the day in half, and celebrating Christmas with your extended family, but without your kids, it’s unlikely to be the happy day it once was.

It’ll never be easy, but here are some tips so that Christmas continues to be a joyous occasion for you and your children.

  • Put your children first. If they don’t want to abandon their shiny new toy five minutes after receiving it when they have to go to their other parent, let them take it with them.
  • Plan early. If you know your kids will be with you on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day instead of Christmas Day itself, speak to your extended family about accommodating a happy Christmas event around that time.
  • If you can, plan a present opening together with your ex so your kids can enjoy Christmas with both of you, even if it’s only for a short time.
  • If you share Christmas Day, avoid conflict or distress for your kids at changeover.

Now that we are looking forward with a bit more hope, with a vaccine on the horizon and as businesses limp back to capacity, many of the clients we’ve met with over the last few months are ready to take the next step in terms of separating from their partners. Our job as family lawyers is to help them to achieve that with as little pain as possible.”

 Depending on how parents communicate and whether parties can be together, organising the annual family pilgrimage for Christmas holidays and January is often fraught. Some parents are able to travel to the same destination and arrange the time their children spend in a very casual and relaxed manner. Other people need far more structure and where communication has broken down completely making these arrangements can be a hassle.

Some things to remember when making plans for the holidays are:

  • Listen to the other parent and try to accommodate what they have actually arranged for the break.  Think about the benefits to your children of spending special time with both sides of their extended families.
  • If you can holiday with your ex to keep the family together and minimise distance and travel, this will benefit your children. You can stay nearby each other and arrange the days/nights your children have with the other parent so that you can make plans.
  • Your children probably want to relax and enjoy the time off just as much as you want to enjoy your time off work. Avoid putting them in situations which causes them stress or which they could resent later.
  • If they are spending lengthy time away from their other parent make sure they are able to call and speak to that parent and fill them in on what is happening on their trip. They will have news that they will want to share and disconnection might hurt them too.
  • If there are risk factors in the children spending time with the other parent or travelling with them, seek advice about what might be appropriate and how best to protect them from such a risk.
  • Looking forward, there will be international travel – on the horizon – you should seek advice about whether you can travel and what is appropriate in terms of time for children. There are some strict rules in place when it comes to travelling with children out of Australia.
  • The Christmas holidays should be a happy and relaxed time. You are the one who can make it this for your children, make it a great Australian Summer this year.

Zachary Wilson is a Senior Associate of Reid Family Lawyers, a boutique specialist family law firm with offices in Surry Hills. He is part of a team of expert family lawyers. The firm has a plethora of experience in all facets of family law including complex property matters, parenting matters, de facto and same sex issues, surrogacy, adoption, child support and spousal maintenance issues and relocation. Zachary is offering a free 20 minute consultation to prospective clients who mention this article when they make an appointment for their initial conference.

To make a booking call 9091 0220 or email [email protected]

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