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Grandparents and Punishment Fuelling Christmas Child Contact Rows
Nearly one-third of rows between separated mothers and fathers about where their children should spend Christmas Day are due to their own parents' plans for truly family festivities.
One of the country's leading law firms has reported that conflict over seasonal parenting arrangements was responsible for a five-fold increase in contact disputes between October and December.
Gianna Lisiecki-Cunane, a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors, said many cases appeared to be due to a clash of circumstances between parents genuinely trying to put the interests of their children first but whose circumstances had changed since splitting up.
However, she claimed that an alarming number involved individuals who were using arguments about how sons and daughters would celebrate Christmas as a means of "punishing" their former partners.
"The weeks immediately before the start of the festive holidays are easily the busiest time of the year for disputes between separated parents about who gets to spend how much time with their children and when.
"That is partially down to the need to resolve issues quickly in the run-up to what is a pressured and emotional time of the year. In particular, I think that the impact of advertising which represents Christmas as a time for the whole family to be together cannot be underestimated.
"Some cases involve individuals who may have moved considerable distances from each other after their relationships ended or may have even established new families of their own.
"Just over 30 per cent of all the cases we handle in November and December feature parents eager to have children spend all or part of Christmas Day with them and their own parents. In some of those instances, grandparents appear to be actually driving matters, insisting that they see their grandchildren on the day itself.
"The interests of the child should be paramount and many parents do prove themselves capable of setting their own differences in order to ensure that their children enjoy Christmas.
"Sadly, there are others who recognise that the natural sensitivities around parenting during the festive season provide an opportunity to make a point to former partners."
Ms Lisiecki-Cunane said there was a responsibility on parents to "think creatively" about how to give children the most enjoyable Christmas possible.
She added that the New Year brought an extra surge in cases from individuals for whom seasonal goodwill proved unable to sort out their parenting problems.
"The number of parents who come to see us in January is even greater than those who approach us for help before the summer holidays.
"They do so because Christmas has not gone well. Either they have failed to resolve their difficulties in time to spend a pleasant Christmas with their children or have experienced fresh issues.
"For them, the New Year seems to offer both an opportunity and the resolve to put in place arrangements for the coming year."
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Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is one of the leading Manchester law firms and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients. We are committed to providing legal services in a cost effective and timely manner.