Negotiating school holiday time with your children can be difficult following separation or divorce. Unfortunately for some families, the tension and stress associated with making decisions around how much time the children will spend with each parent can be significant. If parents are in dispute, it is often likely that children will be affected also.
It is important that both parents and other family members remain child focussed when approaching these issues. It is also important to note that the better the communication between parents.
Many parents like to see a degree of certainty, or pre-planning, when it comes to parenting arrangements over the holiday period. No-one wants to have to renegotiate with their former partner every time there are school holidays, birthdays or special occasions. It is helpful for all to have plans agreed and clearly written in advance.
There are two options to formalise parenting arrangements; a Parenting Plan or Orders of the Court. Both set out with some detail arrangements for special occasions such as Christmas, Birthday and school holiday periods.
A parenting plan is usually voluntary written agreements made between parents, with the help of mediators or lawyers. It is more flexible that court Orders as if plans require any change in the future, a new agreement can be negotiated and then signed. It should be noted that parenting plans can not be enforced by the Court. If one parent doesn’t abide by the plan, resolutions will be through dispute resolution or by launching court proceedings to get an enforceable Parenting Order.
Parenting Order are made by the Court and set-out the arrangements for where child will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and where the children will spend holidays and celebrations such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas. Orders may also set-out other issues such as religious upbringing, schooling, medical considerations and communications.
Orders are generally based on an agreement made between the parents, usually with the help of lawyers, which is then formalised into Court Orders. They are particularly useful if parents have difficulty communicating with each other on a regular basis, or if there is a concern that one parent (or both) might not stick to a more informal agreement. Orders reduce the risk of future conflict and can provide certainty and long-term stability for both parents, and the children. At Peter Fisher Lawyers we tend to recommend Parenting Orders, even if the relationship between the parties is amicable.
For parents who may want to take children on an interstate or overseas holiday during the school holiday period and can not get agreement from their ex-partner can try and mediate through Family Dispute Resolution initially. If parties don’t reach agreement, proceedings can commence in the Family Courts.
Both parents much abide by the arrangement because they are enforceable by the Court. If a parent contravenes or breaches the Orders, the Court can impose heavy penalties, even imprisonment.
Children thrive when they have a set routine which involves minimal disruptions and provides them a sense of security. Preplanning and knowing what to expect during the holidays can alleviate any stress and anxiety the children may have. It may also provide for a better experience between the parents and extended family members.
For more advice on parenting arrangements over the school holiday period, or to discuss other issues around your separation and divorce, please contact our Family Law Team on 8296 2690.