Meet the divorced families who reunite every year for Christmas Day

Ever since I can remember, my Christmas morning has been about waiting by the window.

No, not for Santa – I’m waiting for my dad. As my sister and I have gotten older, we have relaxed our must-arrive-by-7am rule, but dad still rocks up in time for a Prosecco breakfast, laden with gifts and almost always forgetting the crackers.

My parents divorced when I was seven – but I was lucky. They have always remained on great terms with each other, we would have family meals together every week, even the odd holiday – and Christmas has always been an important, unified occasion for us.

And we’re not alone. Hundreds of divorced families across the UK reunite for Christmas Day. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always perfect – but it challenges the perception that families that have been through divorce are ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’.

Louie’s parents separated when he was 18.

‘I remember thinking to myself, “come on you two, you’ve made it this far”. It was unexpected and odd, I didn’t see it coming,’ Louie tells

‘They were just two people who had fallen out of love but clearly still had love for each other.’

Ten years later, and the family have never missed a Christmas all together – including the year of the separation.

‘I think it was initially an attempt to keep things normal for my younger brother, but I couldn’t be prouder of my parents for the way they handle everything,’ says Louie.

Hosting duties alternate between Louie’s parents, but the key thing is that they are always together – no matter what.

‘Whenever it comes up in conversation, people expect it to be a completely strange situation – and maybe it is in a way – but it’s normal and beautiful to us. Although they’re not a couple, we are still a family.

‘The last few years I have come to appreciate this more. Appreciate that it may have been difficult for them at times, and that they did what they thought would benefit us.

‘I appreciate that this is not something to be taken for granted. I also appreciate that lots of families have their unique traditions – like my brother eating 12 Yorkshire puddings with his Christmas dinner.’

Louie is about to turn 30, but he says his family Christmas Day is just as important to him now as it was when he was a teenager.

‘My family coming together is what the Christmas period is, whatever day it’s on. A chance for us to be in the same room. New partners included.’

He does admit that it hasn’t always been completely plain sailing, and says that the first year where one of his parents brought a new partner ‘had its moments’.

‘Mainly for the new partner to be honest,’ he says. ‘Coming into a scenario so full of things unique to a family that belongs to their partners ex relationship, that must have been insane.

‘Seeing your new partner’s son eat 12 Yorkshire puddings is probably distressing enough.

‘Both my parents are big storytellers and openly talk about the past with the other parent in front of their new partners. It still makes me cringe a tiny bit, for the partners mainly.

‘But, generally, the divorced situation is navigated quite well. I mean, my mum is a hugger and my dad’s partner isn’t, so that’s always worth a watch.’

Louie says he feels incredibly grateful and lucky that his family has been able to remain so close.

‘I love that out of a very sad situation – of my family falling apart – the four of us have been able to stay connected by coming together.

‘I just love that my family Christmas set-up exists, because, after everything they went through and lost, my parents made a decision to keep it. What a wonderful thing they did.’

James and Eimear Maguire not only married and had children, they also created a family law firm together. James is a family lawyer, Eimear is a non-legal director who is responsible for essentially running the firm.

The pair later divorced and continued to co-parent their two daughters but also to run and grow the law firm. Spending Christmas together as a family is important to both of them.

‘It’s important to say that although we have arrived at a very positive place, this has taken a number of years and a lot of love and understanding on both sides,’ Eimear tells

‘The fact we had created our business and had to remain working in it together forced us to be mature and professional and, thankfully, out of that we have developed a good relationship, both working and personally.

‘Any good relationship takes two people and we put a lot of effort in for the sake of our children and our business.

‘We have a huge amount of honesty now and such a degree of familiarity that we are just comfortable with what happened and who we are now.’

The pair say that their children were at the heart of their decision to make sure Christmas Day remained a family day for the four of them.

‘When you create a family with a person and that relationship doesn’t work out, it’s very sad,’ says Eimear.

‘You still have so much history and of course it’s important for our children to see their parents being positive towards each other.’

Eimear sees the hurt and pain that some separated families experience at this time of year through her family law work – and she says it’s something they always wanted to avoid for their children.

‘I don’t think our children even appreciate the fact that they have never had to worry about which parent they spend Christmas day with. We have never presented them with that dilemma.

‘Thankfully we have supportive partners and mutual friends who are very encouraging – I am sure they have found their roles in our lives awkward over the years too.’

Eimear knows it can’t always be easy for new partners in their lives to accept their Christmas Day arrangement, but she hopes that people have the capacity to understand why it’s important to them.

‘It’s a big ask. Not everyone would be able to tolerate being in the same room as their partners’ ex let alone Christmas day. But I always think it’s a measure of a very special person to be able to do that.

‘I don’t see a definitive stopping point or a reason to call a halt to this arrangement. As long as everyone involved is happy – long may it continue!’

Not all families can do this. And sometimes a relationship has ended so badly that the best thing for everyone is to spend the big day separately.

But life coach Fiona Harrold says that if it can be done – the family unit could be strengthened as a result.

‘The big benefit of a divorced family reuniting on Christmas Day is that you are connecting closer and seeing that you can still support and strengthen each other going forward,’ Fiona tells us.

‘Knowing that there are people you can turn to and who are there for you is vital today.

‘Seeing your shared history means you’re less likely to feel isolated and will reach out for help in the months ahead, even if you’re no longer living together.’

Fiona says that a reunited Christmas can make a statement that says you’re there for each other and is a positive sign that you’ll be able to create a relationship that works beyond the divorce.

‘Divorce doesn’t have to be acrimonious, or wipe out the love that brought people together in the first place,’ says Fiona. ‘It can simply mean the end of one form of relationship and the beginning of another – Christmas Day is a great day to show that.

‘It is an opportunity to create a new foundation going forward, with memories to fuel warm feelings.

‘If it’s really not possible for your family to do that, why not consider arranging a Skype or Facetime call when everyone is gathered to give greetings.’

Christmas tips after divorce

Make your child the highest priority

Ensuring your child has a happy Christmas is of paramount importance, and this may require compromises between you and your ex-partner.

As the festive period is generally considered to be a time for family, it is perfectly understandable for both parents to want to see the child on Christmas Day; however, no child wants to spend Christmas in the car.

So, if you and your ex-partner live far apart, then it is best you agree to alternate who has the child for Christmas Day each year.

Most importantly, never to ask the child to choose between you and your partner. This puts them in the middle and creates too much pressure and tension.

Don’t be vague

Be clear on arrangements early on with your ex-partner, your child and any other relatives, and ensure these are stuck to (being late for a handover is a sure-fire way to sour the Christmas spirit).

If there is clarity at an early stage, everyone has time to plan activities and no-one misses out. If families have different cultural beliefs and traditions, be sure to factor these into your planning.

Be clear with your child and allow them to voice any concerns. Assure them that Santa will still be able to find them, even if they’re not in the family home!

Look after yourself

Your child’s enjoyment of Christmas depends on there being a happy and loving environment. You will be best placed to create this atmosphere if you look after your own mental well-being.

If you are not having the children on Christmas Day, arrange to stay with family or to meet friends who are in a similar situation.

Children can also experience guilt if they know they are leaving you alone on Christmas, so they will feel more secure knowing you have something to look forward to.

Seek legal advice as early as possible

Unfortunately, sometimes separated parents reach an impasse and may therefore decide to speak to solicitors, attend mediation or even apply to court to work out arrangements (more advice on this below). These processes can take time, so plan.


It can be difficult to have constructive discussions with a former partner, even though you both may want what is best for your child.

A third party can help take the heat out of these conversations, making it easier to reach an agreement.


Mediation involves you and your partner trying to resolve issues amicably, with the assistance of a mediator.

It means that you are not constrained by the court’s timeline, it can be more cost efficient, and it gives you both far more flexibility than you may have with arrangements through court.

A mediator will facilitate discussion between you and your partner, helping you to come to an agreement. The arrangements you settle upon will then be recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding.

Your solicitor can then convert the Memorandum of Understanding into a formal agreement which you can use to plan future Christmas arrangements.

Tom Brownrigg, Goodman Ray Solicitors 

Kristian’s parents have been divorced since he was young, but thankfully, they have always remained good friends.

His family are based all across the globe and they often use Christmas as a time to reunite – something which Kristian is incredibly thankful for.

‘Every year we will meet up for Christmas, either in Denmark or Uganda, or a destination between our different resident countries. We’ve been doing that since the late 90s, I think.

‘We do the Danish thing and celebrate on Christmas Eve. I consider myself quite a lucky child of divorce – in that my parents managed to make it work as friends after.

‘I love that we have ended up using Christmas as the time of year for the family that live spread across the world come together.

Kristian says that his family experiences awkward moments – just like any other, but the fact that his parents happen to be divorced simply isn’t an issue.

‘I love that even as my parents have both moved on with their lives, we’ve kept Christmas as our “original” family evening. No matter where in the world we spend it.’

Family is what you make it – and there is isn’t one perfect way to do Christmas Day – despite what TV adverts might have you believe.

These reunited families are determined to keep Christmas special, supportive and inclusive; and they’re proving that divorce doesn’t make you any less of a family.

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