Lifelines: paying for Christmas

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My husband and I were married for seven years and have two girls aged three and four. We separated in February and are currently in court trying to resolve issues related to our children as well as the financial fall-out.

He is in a good job and has plenty of money; I am on benefits and still fighting with the CSA to get some help. I tried to talk to him about Christmas and he has basically told me he will be spending it with the girls himself and I can like it or lump it. I don’t think this is helpful for our girls’ first Christmas without us both there.

I’m sorry to hear about the situation your family has found itself in as we approach a time that should be full of happiness. Unfortunately these circumstances are far more common than you might think for families experiencing their first post-separation Christmas. It is an emotional time for everyone, whether separated or not, and this is magnified for parents going through the sense of loss that occurs when a relationship breaks down. That often makes it difficult for one, or both, to be able to deal with things like this rationally and sensibly. It is paramount that both of you do not let this derail your parental relationship completely. I would urge you to look at what is best for your daughters at their first Christmas without both of you together rather than what ultimately is best for you. To that end, I would suggest you speak to your lawyer about a possible referral to a family mediator. This will allow you both to look objectively at what other issues you need to resolve to allow your parental relationship to grow.


My girlfriend and I separated earlier this year. We have a boy aged four who lives with my ex most of the week. I see him two days and we get on pretty well. Neither of us has a lot of money so we had planned on pooling what we have to give our son as good a Christmas as possible. But my ex’s mum is planning to spend a small fortune on him as well as arranging Christmas dinner. Neither of us is happy about it but we don’t know what to do. I am worried that if we don’t do something now we are going to have a problem in later years.


It is great the two of you have been able to work so well together 
and are putting what is best 
for your son at the heart of what you do. It is unfortunate that this circumstance is putting a dampener on things. The involvement of close family 
and friends after a separation is really important, but their support is not always positive. I’m sure your ex’s mum doesn’t mean any harm. I would suggest you both arrange a time to speak with her when your son is not around. Tell her how much you appreciate her help but that you both have a different vision for Christmas. Inviting her to be an integral part of that might make it easier for her.

Twitter: @RelScot

Mark Stalker is manager at Relationships Scotland Family Mediation South Lanarkshire