We all know that Christmas is a special time of the year, particularly when you have children wanting to unwrap their Christmas gifts sitting under the Christmas tree. It can also be a stressful and emotional time of the year, particularly for separated families who have to consider the parenting arrangements over the Christmas period.

Reaching an agreement at Christmas time can be quite tricky, as each parent may have different Christmas traditions. It is obvious that the children are not able to be at two places at once, which requires both parents to communicate and organise the Christmas period and festivities well in advance. To avoid conflict, each parent should be willing to compromise and negotiate, remembering that the best interest of the children is the paramount focus.

A common parenting arrangement over the Christmas period is that one parent will have the children in their care from Christmas Eve to just prior to Christmas Day lunch. This allows that parent to spend time with the children before Christmas, leave the milk and cookies out for Santa and to wake up and open the gifts with the children in the morning. The other parent will have the care of the children from Christmas Day lunch to the end of Boxing Day. This allows that parent to open gifts at lunch, enjoy Christmas Day and to then to go on a spending spree with the children and take advantage of the Boxing Day sales. The above arrangements will then alternate every year thereafter.

When the parents do not live in close proximity to one another, a common parenting arrangement is that the children will spend the first half of the Christmas holidays with one parent and the remaining Christmas holidays with the other parent. These arrangements will alternate each year thereafter.

Quite commonly parents may wish to take the children travelling either interstate or overseas. Where there are not any parenting orders in place, then overseas travel will require the consent of both parents due. In some cases where both parents have not provided their consent for the children to travel overseas, authorities are able to prevent the children leaving the country at the airport. This of course will lead to escalation in conflict between the parents, the children being upset and distressed and it can be quite expensive exercise if the travelling parent is not able to get a refund on the planned holidays.

In comparison to overseas travel, interstate travel does not impose the same level of obligations on the parents.  Unless otherwise stated in a parenting order, there is not a requirement to advise the other parent of interstate travel. However, to avoid conflict and stress with the other parent, we advise that it is best to notify the other parent of your interstate travel plans with the children.

If you are not able to reach an agreement with your former spouse, it is important to consider engaging a legal practitioner to assist you with negotiating a parenting agreement. Should you wish to have the agreement bind both parents, then it is important to obtain parenting orders from the Court. It is most likely that an Application to the Court will be heard in the New Year as the last date to file an Application with the Court is the second Friday of November.

Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact our team at WGC Lawyers.