12 Days of Christmas – Family team special

Posted on: December 6th, 2019

With Christmas around the corner, Marie Stock, Senior Associate in our Family team has been working on a collection of blogs looking at how making informed decisions early on can mean there’s hope for the future after separation. As an alternative to an acrimonious, costly and damaging divorce, Marie will consider how to get your finances in order, put positive child care arrangements in place and how to approach a fresh start. In the first article of the series, Marie looks at the subject of Christmas presents.


Christmas. The deluge of sentimental TV adverts has commenced, selling a lifestyle so ‘hygge’ that even I am tempted to rush out and buy a self-assembling gingerbread house.

I could try and pretend that Christmas is all about peace and goodwill, but I am a realist with a child. A child with a chilling fondness for lists. Every year, I vow that this will be the year…. I will prepare with the gusto and organisational skills of Kirstie Allsopp. I will purchase carefully handcrafted, fair trade gifts. Even better, I will fashion said gifts with my own fair hand! My relatives will marvel over my newly acquired skills and we will all laugh merrily as we sit around a roaring fire, eating roasted chestnuts and my (home-made, vegan, gluten free) mince pies.

But alas, reader, I am no Kirstie Allsopp. The truth is I can barely sew a button on a blouse (and that is why I only wear jumpers). I am a millennial. Home economics was a thing of the past when I was at school. I had to learn to make a basic pie at the age of 30 with the assistance of a YouTube tutorial.

Invariably, the second week of December arrives and I am hit by a blinding panic. I have failed to stitch an angel/Mary/lobster costume for the nativity. I have failed to invite my neighbours for a relaxed evening of red wine and canapes. Worse still, the only Christmas present I have purchased thus far is a catnip ‘Santa’ mouse for my murderous cat.

If you have had the good fortune of watching Motherland (available on BBC iPlayer for those who haven’t), you will understand the guilt and shame that comes with ‘trying to be everything for everyone all of the time’. The need to be perfect is a tiring affliction. The pressure can seem even more overwhelming when you have separated from your spouse and are trying to navigate the difficult territory of ‘yuletide child arrangements’. You might feel guilty about your relationship breakdown or anxious that your children are ‘missing out’ in some way. This can invariably lead to terse conversations (or cataclysmic arguments) with your ex.

If this resonates with you, then think of me as your family law Christmas helper. I specialise in sensible negotiation, with your children’s best interests always at the heart of my advice.

I understand that during times of stress and conflict, a calm, supportive and human approach can go a long way to resolve family disputes.

I am committed to helping families reach agreement, using constructive dialogue where possible. If negotiations reach a standstill, I can also give detailed guidance on how the courts might be better placed to help solve your impasse. Of course, asking the court to help is the last resort, but when time is limited, sometimes it’s the only way to make sure Christmas is the gift for all, rather than the few.

And for last minute present related dramas, I suggest a simple gift voucher. Because Auntie Beryl is sick of the annual dental bill caused by your homemade toffee and sister Susan thinks you have questionable taste in music anyway…

If you would like further guidance or if you have any questions, please contact Marie Stock, Senior Associate family lawyer.