Compromising with your Ex at Christmas

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Compromising with your Ex at Christmas


Lorrie Brook, Family Law Lawyer | 21 December 2012

Compromise is the greatest gift you can give your kids

over the Christmas season…

It is that time of year for separated parents to remind themselves to act with empathy and sharpen their compromise skills to protect their children during the lead-up to the Christmas break.

It goes without saying that the Christmas season is often the most stressful time of year for separated parents navigating through shared custody. It can be an emotional holiday break, as each parent does their best to make the most of arrangements that are usually not their ideal preference.

Making the transition to being respectful co-parents who are no longer a couple can be extremely challenging, particularly as life moves on and new romantic relationships are formed. The impact these changes can have on family dynamics at Christmas can be significant.

As hard as it may be, parents should consider the flow on effect conflict can have on their children, and to remember that their kids look to them as their role model.

There are so many families in Australia navigating through similar shared custody issues, with one million Australian children living apart from one of their biological parents (ABS).

Here is a list of the five most common shared custody arguments that arise during the Christmas season – and how to help avoid them!

  1. Embarrassment over expensive gifts one parent can’t afford to match

    Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for separated or divorced parents to compete with each other when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the kids. Parents can help avoid conflicts over gifts by making an effort to speak about their plans in advance and showing sensitivity where there is a difference in income levels between them. Some parents take the mature approach of agreeing on budgets and numbers of gifts to avoid any awkwardness.

  2. Disagreements over dietary guidelines and household rules

    It is best to establish dietary and household ground rules for the Christmas season with your co-parent early to avoid any conflict over the holidays. Complaints around excessive sugar consumption and late bedtimes are common, which can result in children being dropped at their other parents’ house exhausted and grumpy. Acting with common sense and sensitivity towards your co-parent as well as honouring the agreements made should help prevent any of these issues arising.

  3. Tardy delivery of the children

    It can be very distressing for a parent when their child is dropped off late over the Christmas period as this can result in the child missing a carefully prepared meal, family visitors or the unwrapping of gifts or other important family traditions. Keeping to agreed timelines where possible should be a priority to nurture goodwill between co-parents.

  4. Refusal to compromise and take a longer-term view

    Problems arise where one parent refuses to be flexible when planning the schedule for Christmas. An example of this is where one parent wants to wake up with the children on Christmas morning every year instead of agreeing to have the kids Christmas Day one year and Boxing Day the next. It is the children that suffer the most when parents kick their heels in over schedules. It is always best to take a longer-term view on what will be best for both family units.

  5. Trying to fit in too much and spending half the day in the car

    Complicated schedules and long drives between locations can result in grumpy parents and children. It is best to keep arrangements as simple as possible and avoid late night drop offs which can be particularly exhausting. If extended family want to see the kids and are unable to come to you, try and schedule a visit during the days leading up to or following Christmas day to keep your days relatively clear to relax.

Facts on divorce and separation in Australia

  • Currently one in every third Australian marriage ends in divorce
  • (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

  • The average Australian marriage lasts 8.8 years, with the average
    gap between separation and divorce being 3.5 years (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
  • 50,200 divorces were granted in Australia in 2010
  • 28.8% of Australian marriages now involve someone who has been
    married previously
  • The median age for men to divorce in Australia is currently 40.8 and
    38.1 for women(Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Lorrie Brook is the creator of www.ourchildren.com.au, Australia’s first website offering software which helps parents manage shared custody peacefully and protects their kids from being used as messengers


This article contains only general information, and may not apply to your situation. You should obtain information about your situation from an experienced qualified professional.

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