For separated parents, Christmas can lead to squabbling over children, court orders, and contact hours. We interviewed senior divorce lawyer, Simon Creek – about his top tips for navigating such a sensitive time.

  What advice can you provide to separated parents the during the Christmas holidays?

  1. Parents who have their children's best interests at heart will generally agree that the children will spend time with both parents during special occasions (such as birthdays, and Easter).

These same parents will agree that it is best for children to spend time with mum on Mother's Day and dad on Father's Day.

  1. However, negotiating Christmas can be difficult following separation so it is important to make arrangements with your ex partner.

Planning in advance is the easiest and by far the most effective way to minimise conflict.

For example – the following should be discussed with your ex-partner:

  1. How and at what time changeovers will occur (where there is an ongoing conflict between parents, it may not be practical for parents to collect the children from each other's homes for Christmas);
  2. Where the children will be going / what activities will they be doing over Christmas holidays (to avoid double ups).

Ensure that both parents agree who will spend what time with the children during each day of the Christmas period.

  • For example – Parent 1 could have the children for a few days leading up to Christmas day and Parent 2 could have the children for a few days after Christmas day.

Not enough time, too much time – what options are available to those who are unhappy with their parenting arrangements?

  1. If you're unhappy with your parenting arrangements and you don't know what to do, why not speak to a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner
  2. The Family Dispute Resolution practitioner can sit both you and your ex partner down and discuss the issues you're having with proactive ways to resolve them.
  3. If Family Dispute Resolution is unsuccessful, you may have to commence proceedings in the Family Court.

As with any court proceedings, we strongly advise you try and communicate your issues with your ex partner before you enter into a potentially lengthy and costly legal dispute. 

Is there anything parents need to consider when taking their kids on a vacation over the Christmas holidays?

We all know overseas travel will offer invaluable experiences in many ways. It's important for the development of children, experiencing an adventure and winding down from a busy school schedule.

However, in order to get your Christmas holiday planning right, we recommend the following:

  1. Don't book holidays prematurely

Do not book a holiday, hotel or flights until you have agreed to the dates and location with the other parent.

  1. Provide the other parent with details about the holiday as soon as you have them available; as a minimum, you should provide the following to the other parent:
    • Holiday dates;
    • Location;
    • Flight information; and

    Propose Contact for the children while away

    • Agree with the other parent how the child will keep in touch with them, e.g. by phone, Skype or FaceTime.

For the non travelling parent

If you are concerned about where your partner is taking your child for safety reasons, you may seek an order from the court preventing them from going. This should be exercised with caution and only if you believe that there is a strong risk of the child being harmed or abducted.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.