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Who gets the children over Christmas?

Christmas can be a difficult time for separated parents who are trying to make arrangements for contact with their children.

We commonly see that emotions are running high around this time for everyone: there is present shopping, celebration planning, Santa visits, family travel arrangements and more, so it is little wonder that for separated parents, particularly newly separated parents, they do not want or need the additional stress of negotiating the time and travel arrangements for spending time with their children.

We suggest that parents plan their Christmas arrangements well in advance of the day, try to reach agreement and keep in mind that this may be an emotive time and topic for both of you.

We see lots of arrangements that work for parents which might include a shared arrangement where the children stay with one parent for Christmas Eve until part of Christmas day and then the other parent for the rest of Christmas day until Boxing Day and the parent’s swap which part they have annually.  Some parties prefer to divide the holiday period by year, with one parent having the whole of Christmas every second year.  Remember this is about what works for you, so think about your family traditions and what matters to you. 

We suggest when negotiating to also think about what might be important for the other parent.  Is there a way you could accommodate that special arrangement for them which might make it easier for you to have some of your requests met?
A good thing to do before having the discussion is to think about and write down a schedule for three alternatives:

  1. your dream outcome;
  2. your worst outcome;
  3. what you could reasonably live with;

and discuss from there.

You may discuss your situation with the other parent alone, or with a person you both trust present or through a mediation service.  Many mediation services are very busy over this time of year so you may also consider a private mediator or a discussion facilitated by your and the other parent’s lawyers.

If you do work something out that suits you and the other parent you might consider formally documenting that in a parenting plan or by consent orders from the Family Court.  We suggest you speak to a lawyer about your options for documenting your agreement and what might be best in your circumstances.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent or if you are told you will have to wait for a decision for longer that a couple of days, then it may be wise to seek urgent legal advice if you have not done so already.

It may be that once the other parent receives contact from a lawyer they will engage with negotiations in a more fruitful way.  However if negotiations are unsuccessful you will need to consider that you or the other parent may decide to issue proceedings in Court for the issue to be decided.  As Christmas is not far away now, if you want your application to be heard by the Court in a timely manner you will need to make your decision about issuing proceedings sooner rather than later.

If you are having difficulty working out Christmas arrangements we recommend speaking to an experienced family lawyer about your circumstances as soon as possible.
Poppy Matters is an experienced family lawyer and working with Belinda Signorelli are available to assist you in determining the appropriate course of action if you need to agree Christmas arrangements.

This is a discussion of a general nature and is not intended to be legal advice.  You should seek legal advice.  The content of this publication is intended only to provide a general overview on matters of interest.  It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice if you are experiencing any of the issues discussed in this article before acting or relying on any of the content.

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