16 December 2021

How to avoid a family law Christmas meltdown

Cooper Grace Ward


Established in 1980, Cooper Grace Ward is a leading independent law firm in Brisbane with over 20 partners and 200 team members. They offer a wide range of commercial legal services with a focus on corporate, commercial, property, litigation, insurance, tax, and family law. Their specialized team works across various industries, providing exceptional client service and fostering a strong team culture.
Transcript & link to video offering tips for your Christmas preparations.
Australia Family and Matrimonial
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Hello, hello, I'm Justine Woods, I'm the family law partner at Cooper Grace Ward, and I'm just going to give you a few tips for your Christmas preparations.

Now, in addition to planning your dazzling menu and shopping for 500 of your closest friends and relatives, if you are a separated family, or things are looking very dark in your relationship, it is a stressful time – Christmas – particularly in a pandemic. These are some things to think about.

Lots of people want to share the Christmas special days and they're obsessed with doing so. Perhaps for little kiddies, you don't really have any choice, because it's so important to spend those days with them. I do encourage people to think about, however, alternating years, particularly as the children get older, because that allows you to go away if you want to. It allows the avoidance of the Christmas day changeover, which as in Macbeth, it's like having the boiling brain syndrome and Christmas tensions are very high. The celebrations are interrupted. In the old days, when offices were really never shut, we used to write a lot of letters on the 27th of December, about appalling conduct over Christmas and Boxing Day. That's changed a little because I think business life has altered. But avoid that dispute if you possibly can.

I also say, as I often say, just give yourself some time. The urge to have a perfect family event is only going to be your undoing. Lots of people want to celebrate together to sort of continue. Often they say, 'for the benefit of the children.' But I think often really, it's about avoiding even more change in a time of upheaval. Think about, is it really realistic to spend Christmas Day with your separated spouse and or his or her family? Avoid it if you can I say, generally speaking, if there's any likelihood of conflict.

And in terms of getting ready for school, this is another huge flashpoint of conflict. These sound like incredibly minor issues, but in the context of a larger dispute where people are feeling very smashed and unhappy, the argument about who's going to actually do the physical shopping before returning to school, who is going to pay for it? Sometimes there are even disputes about which school a child will attend. Now, that is an issue that the court has jurisdiction over. Lots of people are then trying to argue about it in late December/early January. The court is so terribly over listed at the moment that really you would need to allow yourself about six months if you're anticipating that being a struggle. We filed an application, for not about school, but about children, and asked for the earliest date available last week – we got March. And that's not necessarily guaranteed to be a hearing. That might be purely a directions hearing where the court sees administratively what orders you're seeking. So again, allow yourself a lot of time if those issues are going to be in dispute.

The holidays are also a very good opportunity to create two households, and I am often assisting people to make the escape if they need to. Particularly conflict avoidant people really want to be able to withdraw themselves from the situation without necessarily having the enormous argument. Holidays are a perfect time to do so. Alright, now we're off to the beach (you can't go anywhere else at the moment), so just up the road at the beach, and then within the period of time that you're away, you say that it's for our relationship and create two new households. So, the holidays are a very good opportunity to achieve some change, if that's what you want. Ideally, of course, for the children and you'd be surprised how many parents are so distraught they forget this really want to be settling things down by about the middle of January in preparation for the children to go back to school. The other time we see a big uptake in family law enquiries is once the children are back to school. That everything has gone on, we've endured one another over the Christmas period and now they're back at school, I've got some time, I'm going to seek legal advice. So they're the types of events to be conscious of.

And just generally, I think be a little kind to yourself. This is a hard, It's a hard phase globally, in the pandemic and Christmas is always a great strain to people in the family law system. Everything quietens down, give yourself the opportunity for some reflection.

Merry Christmas to everyone, see you in the New Year. If you have any enquiries, we're open throughout.

© Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers

Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in Brisbane.

This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.

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