Navigating Christmas and beyond – Family law dos and don’ts – tips for separated families

9-November-2022 Family Law By Simone Green

Christmas and holidays are socially idealised to evoke happiness, joy, and goodwill. The reality of the festive season for many, however, is that the season brings stress, conflict, and a host of other problems. For families experiencing divorce and separation, the season can be particularly challenging and disruptive, for both parents and their children, as they adjust to two separate households.

Streeterlaw solicitor and Accredited Specialist in Family Law, Simone Green provides vital tips for newly separated parents on how to survive and thrive through Christmas, the holidays and beyond.

1. Plan ahead!

  1. Communicate with the other parent your preference (in writing) for spending time with the children over the Christmas period and school holidays, as far in advance as possible.
  2. If agreement cannot be reached, and negotiations become protracted, you may need to engage a mediator or parenting co-ordinator to assist.
  3. If mediation fails and a Court application is necessary, such application must be filed no later than the first week in November if the case is to be heard prior to Christmas.

2. Be child focussed

Consider whether a decision for both parents to see the children on Christmas Day for example, is more about meeting the needs of the parent than the needs of the children.

  • Be practical and realistic – are the arrangements age appropriate?
  • Consider the distance between homes. Are the children likely to spend a significant period travelling?

Consider the benefit to the children of spending time with other family members such as half-siblings, step-siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

  • Consider alternating Christmas Eve/Christmas Day so that each parent has an opportunity to have either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with the children each alternate year (depending on the age of the children).
  • Allow and if necessary, facilitate the children to video call or otherwise speak to the parent they are not with, to share in their excitement.

3. Consult – don’t assume!

  1. Do not commit to events involving the children’s attendance such as holiday camps, holidays away or overseas until discussing this with the other parent.
  2. If overseas travel is anticipated, always obtain the other parent’s consent in writing to avoid issues at the airport.
  3. Apply for passports well in advance. Both parent’s signatures are required on all child passport applications and issues often arise where one parent either delays signing the application or refuses consent.

4. Be flexible

  1. There will always be things that arise that will necessitate a change to the parenting schedule, whether it is a minor delay at changeover due to traffic or other unforeseen incident, unavailability to care for children due to illness or misadventure, or even competing important commitments.
  2. Provided a request to change is reasonable, infrequent, and does not cause significant disruption and hardship to you or the children, try to be flexible where possible. It may go a long way when you need the other parent to be flexible in similar circumstances. It may mean a change in weeks of care, make-up time on the odd occasion or additional care of children in an emergency.

4. Be a positive parent

  1. Regardless of the shortcomings of your ‘ex’ as a partner, try to remember that they are your child’s parent and your reactions towards that parent can greatly impact the mental health of your children and their relationship with both their parents.
  2. Try to avoid discussions with your ‘ex’ at changeover which are likely to become heated or will otherwise cause distress to the children.
  3. Do not have phone conversations on loudspeaker or in the presence or hearing of your children in which you expose your children to parental conflict, or negative talk about their parent.
  4. If you can think of something nice to say about the other parent, share it with your children!
  5. Encourage your children to spend time with the other parent, even if they are struggling with the change. Be as positive as possible about the experience to lessen their anxiety.

If you are separated or thinking or separating call and speak to our specialist family law team today on 02 8197 0105 and let us guide you towards a positive resolution of your family law dispute.

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