With the upcoming Christmas holidays fast approaching (or not coming fast enough), many people find themselves in a new situation where they have recently separated, with the unresolved issue of what is happening with care of the children and how to raise this with the other parent.
Christmas is a time to spend with your closest family and friends to celebrate and be grateful for with the ones that you love. Usually a time of togetherness for families, it can be a first time you find yourself in a situation where years of tradition are uprooted.
Here are some ways to assist you in navigating the Christmas holiday period as a newly single parent.
- Plan Ahead
Last minute stress of raising issues in relation to the care of children never helps anyone, simply increasing the deadlines and pressures of an already difficult time of a new single parent trying to juggle employment commitments, care (or lack thereof) the child/ren and financial constraints.
Begin the conversation with the other parent if you do not already have a parenting arrangement or court orders in place. Should you be unable to agree, you can engage in alternate dispute resolution in order to resolve any outstanding issues with the assistance of either a mediator and/or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (which is a step required to be undertaken as a pre-action procedure in order to make a genuine attempt at resolving the matter prior to initiating proceedings in the Family Court/Federal Circuit Court). You are also able to undergo Family Dispute Resolution with legal assistance.
In the event that no arrangement be reached at FDR or between the legal representatives, the option of filing an Application with the Court is the last resort. However, there is a deadline for parenting applications to be considered prior to the Christmas Holiday period, which is usually the second Friday in November, unless of course it is considered urgent.
It is always handy to have any agreement reached in writing so you are both on the same page (pun intended) and there is no miscommunication or understanding.
- Work Together
You and your former spouse/partner are the best ones who know your individual family circumstances and what is important to you, not judges, lawyers or other individuals who have gone through the process and seek to provide you with advice and tell you what you should do.
The best way to assist your children to go through the separation period, which they themselves are affected, is for them to see that you respect their relationship with the other parent, and to see that their parents are trying to work together for the best outcome.
- Your children come first
This is not a time a time to think from a win/lose perspective, thinking that if you do not get what you ask for, that you are ‘losing’.
The Court’s paramount consideration is what is in the best interest of the children. Think about ways to ensure that the children are comfortable and happy with the arrangements that are in place. Never ‘guilt-trip’ your child/ren into feeling bad about spending time with the other party during the holidays.
Whilst it is important for children to know that you love them tremendously with all you heart and soul and will never let anything bad happen to them, do not let them know that you are hurting because they are not there with you and make use of the time that you do have them.
Also keep in mind that the current situation (if particularly bad), will not always be the case and children remember and appreciate the time and care that you put into them during times like this when they are older.
- Things to consider when planning ahead
Specifically discuss with the other parent what the plans are to avoid any misunderstanding, including the following:-
- The specific times that the children will be spending with each parent, taking into consideration any family events and also the age of the children and whether it is age appropriate for the child to be away from their primary attachment figure for any extensive period of time.
- The distance between changeover points and where the changeover is to occur. It is important to keep in mind an age appropriate location and think about the time taken to deliver the child/ren from one location to the other. The changeover location should be at a neutral public location in order to avoid the risk of conflict if this is an issue (particularly if other family members are present and there is has been ongoing animosity). Planning ahead will also reduce the anxiety associate with last minute planning, and deal with any issues such as whether a particular location will be open during the Christmas holiday period (due to public holidays for example.)
- Gift giving – discuss gifts with the other party so that there isn’t a cross-over of the same presents, for example, a gaming console. Work together so that gifts supplement each other in these circumstances.
- Be realistic
There are going to be occasional hiccups that arise with a new situation. Be realistic in your expectations and try facilitating or consider alternative arrangements with the other parent that work best in your circumstances, keeping the child/ren in mind.
There is no one arrangement that is suitable for all families when considering Christmas Day (or the Christmas Holiday period), so make sure to think of an arrangement that will work for both parents and in particular, the children.
The aforementioned is in circumstances where you and the other parent are on fairly amicable terms. Should there be an imminent threat of abuse, history of family violence and threats made, leave immediately or if you are unable to, contact the Police for urgent assistance.
It is also important to keep in mind who has possession of the child/ren’s passports (is this is applicable), particularly if your former partner/spouse is a citizen of another country. If there are any indications that the other parent may leave the country without having provided you with notice of the holiday, together with the details such as flight itinerary, where the children will be staying as well as contact details, contact our expert family lawyers to understand what your rights are in this situation.
This article is general tips and advice only and should not be taken as legal advice. For legal advice or to find out further information, contact our family law solicitors at (02) 8917 8700 for a no obligation free consultation.