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Negotiating a happy Christmas for the children
Divorced and separated couples who cannot agree on arrangements for children over Christmas should consider mediation to work things out, rather than an application to the court, according to local family law experts Oxley & Coward Solicitors.
Christmas is presented as a time of universal happiness and enjoyment; expectations run high and it can be hard for reality to match up. As a result, the aftermath of Christmas is always a busy time for family law solicitors. Everyone agrees that Christmas is a time when the children should come first, so Oxley and Coward are urging parents to put aside their differences and have some simple tips to avoid the hostilities this festive season:
•Try to make arrangements for where the children will stay well in advance. Children do not like uncertainty so the ideal is to have an arrangement that will be repeated over the years. For example, one year the children spend Christmas Day with Mum and Boxing Day with Dad and the next year this is reversed
•Parents must not compete over presents for the children
•Presents should be agreed on in advance to prevent duplication and other practical problems
•It is stressful, confusing and upsetting for children if parents argue or show ill will towards each over, so parents are urged to be polite, cheerful and positive towards each other when picking up or handing over the children
“There is an increasing emphasis on mediation which should be good news for the whole family,” said Sarah Scott, partner and family law specialist with Oxley and Coward Solicitors LLP. “It’s likely to become a requirement in due course that separating couples will have to consider mediation as an alternative way to reach an agreement. It’s a much more cost-effective way of doing things and it’s important that couples find a way somehow to help them resolve issues, rather than seeking an aggressive divorce.”
Sarah added: “The courts are not an ideal place to sort out marital problems as they are adversarial rather than aimed at solution finding. Whether you have problems agreeing arrangements for the children or being of the same mind on the division of assets, mediation can offer an effective way of coming to a solution that both sides can sign up to. A family lawyer’s role in mediation is to support clients through this process and provide them with appropriate legal advice, giving them the confidence to negotiate their own agreements.”
In a court case, the parties each present their case and then a judge decides what is to be done. This can leave a party, possibly both parties, feeling bitterly resentful. By contrast, in mediation, it’s about finding mutually acceptable outcomes. Agreements reached at mediation are more likely to work in the long term than court imposed orders because the parties have been in control of the settlement reached from the start.
Some useful advice for parents can also be found on the website of Resolution, the family lawyers association at http://www.resolution.org.uk or contact Sarah Scott and her colleagues in the family law department at Oxley and Coward on 01709 510999 and take advantage of a free half hour appointment. Alternatively, visit Oxley and Coward’s website at www.oxcow.co.uk
Photograph and caption
Sarah Scott, partner and family law specialist with Oxley & Coward Solicitors LLP in Rotherham.
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Ref: OXCOW102 – Mediation over Christmas
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