Undoubtedly, the festive season can be a tense and stressful time for separated families. Most often it is the case that both parents wish to spend time with their children and partake in the joy and spirit which generally occurs around this time of year. When your family is separated or living between two households, enjoying this period can be difficult especially in the absence of a Court Ordered parenting arrangement.
To avoid unnecessary stress, we recommend a few strategies which may go a long way to having an enjoyable and family filled holiday experience.
First, have a plan. In the lead up to the holiday period, if circumstances permit, try to communicate with the other parent to negotiate Christmas/holiday arrangements. This can either occur through your legal representatives or, directly between each other. Parenting plans or informal agreements are a great option to reduce conflict and have all parties (including the children) involved in the decision making around holiday time. If an agreement can be made, this means that both parents accept their time with the children and the children may feel less in the middle of parental conflict.
Next, you should seek legal advice about your ongoing entitlements to time with the children. In accordance with the Family Law Act 1975, there are no assumptions that each parent has equal time with the children over the holidays (or during any period for that matter). It is important that parents seek professional, expert advice as to what they may expect during Christmas and what may be in the best interests of the children. If parents cannot informally agree to holiday arrangements, it may be at this time that the assistance of mediation is sought by parents so that discussions can be had and each party’s perspective be heard.
Finally, when negotiating a holiday arrangement parents should always keep the children as the main focus and be reasonable in their expectations. It is important to understand that regardless of what has happened between parents (notwithstanding family violence or abuse) the children likely love both parents equally and want to spend time with each of their parents over the holiday period. Unless there are risks to a parent or the children from the other parent, it is probable that it is in the children’s best interest to spend time with both parents and enjoy all the family they have available to them.
If you wish to discuss your current parenting arrangement for the holidays or if you are yet to implement a plan, please contact our team of expert family lawyers here at Baker Love Lawyers.