Top 5 tips for surviving Christmas as a separated family

29-November-2016 Family Law By Simone Green

Streeterlaw’s Principal Solicitor in Family Law, Simone Green, has come up with the following five tips to avoid some of the anxiety attached to family Christmas celebrations when you are separated from your former spouse:

1. Negotiate early and communicate
In the event that you do not have a current parenting plan or parenting orders, of if you need to make changes to the existing plan, begin the conversation with the other parent as early as possible to avoid the stress of last-minute pressure.

Government funded mediation services are overloaded in the lead-up to Christmas. If you require assistance in parenting negotiations, private mediation services may offer more availability at short notice.

Please note: The Family Court does not consider parenting applications for Christmas holiday orders filed after the second Friday in November.

2. Work together

The best people to make decisions concerning your children are not the lawyers, not the judges but the parents themselves. No one knows your children as well as you know your children. The best thing you can do for your children is to respect their right to a relationship with their other parent and to see you trying to work together in a positive way on decisions that concern them.

3. Keep it about the kids

When negotiating parenting arrangements for the Christmas break, try and see it from your kids’ perspective. While it might be important for you to each spend some time with the kids on Christmas Day, will it really benefit the child if it means that they spend much of the day travelling and not being able to relax with either parent? Be creative in your options. Christmas is hard for kids too. With older children, it can be beneficial to consider their views in a sensitive, age-appropriate way. Avoid putting pressure on the children to adopt the position of one parent or the other.

4. Consider the specifics of any arrangements

When making arrangements for Christmas and school holiday time, consider how you might practically manage the arrangements. Things to consider, among others, are:

  • The distance between changeover points – how long will the children have to travel each way?
  • The changeover location – will it cause stress to either parent or the children to meet at the other parent’s home if there is a risk of conflict on changeover?  Consider alternatives such as a neutral, public location but ensure that such a location is open on public holidays to avoid last minute dramas, eg. not a café or shopping centre.
  • How much time is appropriate for the kids to be away from their primary carer? Ensure that any arrangements you make are age appropriate for the child. For instance, it may not be appropriate for a very young child to spend a block of time with the other parent if they have not done so previously.
  • Ensure the changeover dates are very specific to avoid a misunderstanding. Avoid any arrangement that simply states ‘for half of the school holidays’ for instance. Ensure the arrangement contains the necessary information to calculate the mid-point of the holiday period.
  • Parenting Orders: what you need to know, is a helpful publication prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department with the assistance of Professor Richard Chisholm AM. This resource is available on the Attorney General’s website:

5. Expect some hiccups

Be realistic with your expectations, especially if it is your first Christmas season as a separated family. Christmas is often difficult in the best of circumstances; in the midst of separation, you have the ingredients for the perfect storm. There will be tears, there will be drama and it will be different. It will take time for everyone to adjust to the new situation, but it will get better in time.

Streeterlaw are experts in all Family Law matters. For further information or to discuss your personal circumstances and how we can help you, call us on 81970105 or email

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