With Christmas, only a couple of months away now is the time to start putting in place your parenting arrangements for the festive season and summer holidays.
Reaching an agreement can sometimes be difficult for separated parents, so getting plans bedded down before the silly season is upon you can help to reduce the stress on you and your children.
The best place to start is by communicating with your ex. Focusing on what is in the best interests of your children and prioritising their happiness is the best approach. After all, we all want Christmas and the holidays to be a special and magical time for them where fond memories are made.
Sharing the special moments
Where possible and circumstances permit, we encourage parents to find a way for the children to spend time with both of you over Christmas.
Many separated parents find that splitting the time can work well for them and the children, allowing both to celebrate Christmas lunch or dinner on the day together. Eg. The kids spend:
- 3:00 pm on Christmas Eve to 3:00 pm on Christmas Day with one parent.
- 3.00 pm on Christmas Day to 3:00 pm on Boxing Day with the other parent.
The usual parenting arrangements then recommence from 3:00 pm Boxing Day, which may involve the children returning to the care of the parent who will spend the first half of the school holidays with them.
The following year, parents typically swap the times so that each gets to spend Christmas Eve with the children every second year.
If you and your ex can reach a verbal agreement, that is ideal. However, if you are worried the other parent may change their mind, not follow through, or you require more certainty, your arrangement can be documented by way of a parenting plan (which can be prepared relatively quickly). While the document itself isn’t legally binding, it can be used as evidence of what was agreed upon at that point. Another option is to put in place a Consent Order which is legally enforceable.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, a judge in the family court can make the decision for you. However, this should be your last resort.
If you think court is the only way to finalise arrangements, please contact us for advice as soon as possible, as the court deadline for applications relating to the upcoming Christmas school holidays is the second Friday in November. If you miss the deadline, your matter may not be allocated a hearing date until after Christmas, which will be too late.
If you are not currently in the court system, the new family law rules will require you to first participate in family dispute resolution (this requirement is only waived in limited circumstances of urgency or family violence).
Navigating these types of issues can be difficult. If you are unsure of the best approach for you and your situation, the team at Lakey Family Law can help you understand your different options and advise and represent you as needed – contact us to arrange a time to talk with a family lawyer.
You might also like to read this article which provides more suggestions and tips for planning your parenting arrangements over the Christmas period.