Christmas for many people is a time of joy, holiday cheer and time to reconnect with family. Unfortunately, for newly separated parties and families, it can be a difficult time and navigating parenting arrangements around this time of year and leading up to Christmas can cause conflict and unnecessary stress.
Avoid Conflict – Start Planning Now
In terms of trying to come to some sort of agreement in relation to what Christmas arrangements will look like for your children, it is important, where possible and where safe, to speak with your ex-partner as soon as possible, so as to avoid last-minute conversations which can often lead to tension and conflict in the few days leading up to Christmas or during the Christmas holiday period.
If you and your ex-partner have an opportunity to sit down and work out Christmas arrangements, this will be far better for your child/ren, they will know that you are able to sort out matters without the need for legal intervention.
What happens if we can't agree?
Unfortunately, sometimes due to highly acrimonious separations or difficulties with communication, parties are unable to discuss parenting arrangements and reach an agreement between them. The courts are increasingly busy at this time of year and it can be very difficult, if not almost impossible, to get a court date prior to the Christmas period. A suitable avenue to negotiate some parenting arrangements over the Christmas period can often involve contacting a solicitor, who can help you facilitate mediation in order to discuss not only Christmas arrangements, but any other arrangements for the balance of school holidays or other upcoming special occasions.
What are my other options?
If you are not wanting to engage in the mediation process, then engaging a solicitor to communicate with your ex-partner or alternatively, if they have a solicitor, then your ex-partner's solicitor, can be useful in terms of trying to broker some common ground and come to some sort of arrangement for your child/ren during the Christmas period. Having an experienced solicitor can assist you with navigating this process, which can be incredibly useful so that your children, you and your ex-partner are able to enjoy the festive break
What if my partner wants to take the child/ren overseas?
If you are separated or divorced and your children don't have a current passport, then you may need to negotiate with the non-travelling parent in order to have them sign the relevant passport application.
In the event that the non-travelling parent is not prepared to provide their consent and refuses to sign the application, either due to them having genuine concerns for the child's safety, or (as is sometimes the case) for no good reason at all, then you are likely to require advice surrounding how to make an application to the Family Court or to the Federal Circuit Court.
Both these courts have the power to make an order requiring the non-travelling parent to sign the passport application, or alternatively, an order determining that their signature is not actually required. In making this determination, the Family Court's paramount consideration will always be whatever is in the best interest of your child.
To avoid the issue of overseas travel turning into a dispute, both parties should consider including provisions in orders (either by consent or otherwise) that outline the conditions in which the parties can travel with the child.
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.