How to navigate Christmas arrangements as separated parents

By Sebastian Hill, Managing Partner at Boylan Lawyers

 

Navigating the Christmas period as a separated family can be stressful. Separated parents need to plan how they’ll share time with their children on the dates of importance (i.e., Christmas, New Year’s Eve, etc.) and what travel arrangements are appropriate during COVID19.

We provide general advice on the commonly asked questions received from separated parents who are trying to navigate the festive season.

What Christmas arrangements are available for separated families?

Plenty of options are available for separated families to share time with their children throughout the holiday period. Examples of Christmas arrangements might include:

  • Children with one parent on Christmas eve and Christmas morning, and with the other for Christmas afternoon and boxing day.
  • Children with one parent for all of Christmas, but with the other parent for a couple of hours during the day.
  • Children spend all the Christmas holidays with one parent, which then changes the next year.
  • Continue with your usual arrangement if Christmas is not a significant holiday for your family.

Most importantly, both sides need to be happy with the arrangement that is chosen and commit to it. Be polite and civil during negotiations. Nothing makes a matter worse than conflict and threats.

 

What happens if my ex is being difficult and/or threatening to not go ahead with our plan?

Whether you are newly separated or have been separated for a while, it is important to understand your rights.

If you do not have a court order in place, care arrangements for children are not enforceable. The option to have a judge decide how you and your children spend Christmas is also not an option in December due to the court’s cut-off date.

At the forefront of your actions should be what is in the best interests for the child. They have a right to see both parents and share in the joys of the holidays. Either parent is entitled to make decisions about their children. However, parents need to think about the potential consequences of their actions such as litigation, difficulties with future negotiations or arrangements, and disruption to their children’s life.

Parents should talk to each other and see what arrangements they can make. Parents should also meet with their lawyer to work out an arrangement that is fairer and more concrete in the new year.

 

My ex wants to travel interstate with our children, and I am worried about COVID19, what can I do?

Generally, it is difficult to get an urgent court listing, and much will come down to the respective COVID laws in place at the time. Questions that would be considered include ‘Are the borders closed for re-entry?’, ‘What state are they going to?’, ‘What are the quarantine obligations on return?’. These are no simple questions, and each case will turn on its own circumstances.

If there is a court order, there might be a “reasonable excuse” for non-compliance with any existing order with respect to allowing travel or not. A primary carer probably faces less adverse legal consequences than a contact parent for travelling or not allowing the other to travel.

An urgent legal letter from your lawyer putting another party on notice may prevent or ensure an outcome. This might also become useful in the future.

With regards to how much the police can help, they prefer to not get involved with family matters. Police will do welfare checks (to a point) and keep the peace. They will not take your children away because the other parent has told you they will. If your children are in danger, the police will step in.

 

Family and domestic violence services are available

If you are experiencing violence or abuse, family and domestic violence services are still open over Christmas. Don’t think that it is too hard to leave or do something because everyone is closed. If you are not sure what or where to ask – talk to the police. If the police cannot help you themselves, they can direct you to those services who can. Help will be available if you need it.

The Boylan Lawyer’s family law team has a combined 86 years’ experience working in family law, wills and estates, and probate. We are committed to protecting the rights of individuals and families. Clients are now supported from offices in Adelaide CBD, Port Pirie, Strathalbyn, Victor Harbor, Port Augusta, and Whyalla.

 

Book a free family law consultation today by clicking here.

 

Sebastian Hill, Managing Partner

Sebastian Hill is the managing partner at Boylan Lawyers. Sebastian oversees all practice areas and has a specialist interest in family law, estate disputes and intergeneration farm transfer. Sebastian provides clients with clear, considered, and practical advice.

Sebastian is a passionate contributor to the legal profession in South Australia having served as a member on several Law Society of South Australia Councils and Committees and as a board member of Westside Community Lawyers.

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