The school holidays are a great time for parents to bond with their children, take them on new adventures and generally enjoy each other’s company. With the school holidays starting and Christmas not too far away, it can be difficult organising your children’s living arrangements.
So what can separated parents do to make their children’s lives as well as their own lives easier? We asked a child custody lawyer at Emerson Family Law to answer some questions surrounding parental arrangements over the school holidays.
Should I Create a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is a voluntary agreement that outlines which days your children will spend with each parent. Under the Family Law Act 1975, the Parenting Plan must be written and signed by both parents. It can also be at any time as long as both parents agree to those changes. Parents should consider a parenting plan if they can freely communicate about any issues regarding their child/children, or they are after a more structured co-parenting style.
It is usually a more simple and affordable solution to a parenting order, however, it is not legally enforceable. So, if parents are unable to agree on a set of arrangements, our child custody lawyer at Emerson suggests asking the court to make a Parenting Order.
Should I Lodge a Parenting Order Instead?
As previously outlined by our child custody lawyer, parents will usually request the court to make an order if they are unable to agree about arrangements. Similar to a parenting plan, a parenting order is a set of parenting agreements for a child, however, made by a court. If a parent does not follow the parenting order, they may be breaking the law and the courts will issue you a penalty. Under the Family Law Act 1975, an order may deal with any of the following:
- Who your child/children will live with;
- The time spent with each parent on significant holidays, for instance, Christmas, public holidays and school holidays;
- How the child will communicate with the parent they are not living with; and
- Any other relevant aspect that may affect the welfare, care and influence of the child.
This order will remain in place until a new order or any changes are made.
What Happens On Special Occasions Like Christmas?
Setting out arrangements based on special holidays is very common in a parenting order or plan.
For instance, during the summer school holidays, orders will usually outline who the child will live with and for how long. There should be no presumption from both parents that the school holidays will be shared equally. As outlined in the Family Law Act 1975, the court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child.
Here’s an example of a school holiday parenting arrangement by our child custody lawyer:
Regular arrangements will be suspended and the child/children shall live with the mother from 3pm Thursday on the last week of Term 4 until 9am Saturday of the following week, and with the father from 9am Saturday until 4pm Saturday of the subsequent week.
A parenting order may outline an alternating schedule for special holidays like Christmas. For instance:
In each even-numbered year, the child shall live with the father from 5pm on 24 December until 2pm 25 December, and the Mother from 2pm on 25 December until 5pm on 26 December. The parenting may outline changeover arrangements and communication with the parent they are not living with.
What About Overseas Travel During the Holidays?
Summer holidays in Australia are a popular time to travel. If one parent wishes to take their children on an overseas holiday, they must first obtain the consent from the other parent, and then outline any arrangements in the parenting order or plan. If a parent refuses to consent any travel, the other parent may apply for Court orders. The Court must receive the full details of the intended travel, including dates, destinations and contact details, before making a decision. The Court may also request a security bond which must be paid to ensure the child is returned to Australia by the outlined date. Once all conditions are met and the Court is satisfied that any travel is in the child’s best interests, permission will be granted.
In cases where a parent is concerned about their child’s safety, they may seek a Court order preventing them from travelling by outlining their reasons in an affidavit. This order can either prevent a child’s passport from being issued or prevent a child from leaving Australia. If you fear that your child/children will be taken out of the country regardless of not offering your consent, please seek urgent legal advice from a child custody lawyer.
What Are The Best Steps For Avoiding Conflict?
According to our child custody lawyer, here are some steps parents should be implementing to avoid any conflict, particularly in front of any children.
- Put the children first. When it comes to their arrangements, it needs to be what is best for the children, not what’s best for the parents. It is important for parents to listen to their children’s needs, emotions and concerns. Parents should also ask their children what they want to do and give them input in the process.
- Create new traditions. This is particularly important over the Christmas period. Unique holiday traditions can help your children focus on the joys of the festive season and alleviate any stress they may be feeling. It is also important to show them that change is natural and not necessarily a bad thing.
- Learn to communicate. Effective communication is key, even in broken relationships. You may not be able to communicate in the same ways you used to, so learn new ways to hold effective and engaging conversations.
Speak to a Child Custody Lawyer About Holiday Arrangements
If you are unsure how to incorporate school holidays and Christmas into your parenting plan or parenting order, we suggest speaking to a child custody lawyer. Our team at Emerson are experienced in all children’s matters and have the skills to appropriately handle your case in the best interests of your children. Please get in touch to speak to a team member.