Simpson Millar Survey Reveals North/South Parenting Divide

– Newly divorced and separated parents in the West Midlands are the UK’s most argumentative at Christmas

– Only 11% set aside differences and spend Christmas together, 56% cannot even remain on speaking terms

– 32% of divorced parents in London spend Christmas together making them the friendliest in the UK

– Divorced parents in the South West of England are the most likely to get a lawyer (46%) but Yorkshire’s mums and dads avoid lawyers if they can with only 28% getting legal help

A survey by national law firm Simpson Millar has revealed the complexities facing divorced and separated parents at Christmas time.

The Simpson Millar Family Law Christmas Survey 2014 uncovers the most significant challenges faced by 1000 parents in the lead up to the Festive Season, showing that mums and dads frequently struggle to find common ground while worrying about issues such as whether their ex partners are spoiling the children to win affection, or if new family members are having a bad influence.

Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Law at Simpson Millar, explains: “We looked at the general approach divorced and separated parents take to Christmas; how do they organise who gets the children? Do they plan ahead to avoid arguments and do custody arrangements have an influence on how the holiday season is planned out.

Getting it together for Christmas?

“With more than a quarter (28%) admitting they are ‘cutting it fine’ or ‘leaving it until the last minute’ to make arrangements for Christmas, the UK’s divorced and separated parents face some big hurdles to keep the peace between themselves and ensure they get to spend valuable time with their children at Christmas,” says Emma.

Divorced and separated parents revealed that the most common thing they argue about at Christmas is the problem of their ex ‘spoiling’ the children. 37% of mums and dads across the UK cited this as the likeliest source of tension, however there were numerous other potential flashpoints.

“Roughly equal on the list with the issue of spoiling the kids was the problem of failure to agree ‘ground rules’ with 36% citing this as a disruptive issue,” adds Emma, “however concerns over step-siblings or step-parents also scored highly, with 30% saying this tended to be a problem.”

Are parents really listening to their children?

The survey also discovered an interesting dichotomy in how divorced and separated parents consider their children’s wishes at Christmas. “This was a fascinating revelation, in that only 13% admitted to asking their children what they wanted to do at Christmas, but two thirds (66%) said their children’s ‘opinions are an important factor’. We often find when warring parents come to Simpson Millar for advice, they are adamant they are thinking only of their children, but in my experience, children often don’t mind which parent they are with on 25 December. I try to encourage parents to make it a bonus that their children get to enjoy two different Christmas Days – sadly this doesn’t happen often.”

Dads feel need to compete

The survey provides a number of unique insights into the challenges faced by parents, notably the differences between fathers and mothers. We found that significantly more dads (36%) than mums (27%) felt the need to ‘compete for their children’s affections’.

A forgiving bunch

A potential silver lining can be found in that fact that the UK’s mums and dads can be a pretty forgiving bunch. “It may surprise you to learn that almost a quarter (23%) of divorced and separated parents actually spend their Christmas Day together as a family, with more than a third (35%) of parents in the East Midlands and 32% of Londoners joining in festivities on 25th December alongside their ex.