As we approach the end of the year, some separated parents may be in conflict about arrangements for their children over the Christmas holidays. Here, we look at ways to address this.
What are our options?
Mutual agreement is the preferred course however harmonious discussion is impossible for some parents. You may need the assistance of a mediator to arrive at a solution. Organisations such as Relationships Australia or the Family Relationships Centre can help, as can lawyers. As a last resort, you can apply for a Court order.
What does the law say?
The Family Law Act states that children have a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents but it’s not specific about arrangements over Christmas. If litigation is started, the Court will decide the matter based on the children’s best interests factoring, for example, prior care arrangements and the nature of the relationships between all children and each parent.
What’s involved in going to Court?
Before applications can begin, it’s normally necessary to provide the Court with a mediation certificate stating that a genuine effort has been made to resolve the issue. In cases of urgency, or where allegations of family violence exist, an exemption may be granted. If a hearing is set, you may need to engage a lawyer to guide you through the process and to properly present your evidence. The procedure can take a few weeks so these issues should be considered well ahead of the holiday period.