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A Family Law Guide for separated parents for surviving Christmas


Most parents will have an arrangement in place for spending time with their children, whether it be on a week-to-week or an alternating basis.

These arrangements can become difficult during Christmas/ school holiday time, when parents make plans for the public holidays period and travel away from home.

Negotiating your parenting arrangement with your co-parent can be tough when one parent’s schedule and travel plans conflict with the other.

Here are a few things that parents can do in advance to make the Christmas holiday period a little bit easier:

  1. Make a plan with your co-parent

Discuss with your co-parent your ideas about how the children spend the Christmas holiday period before your accommodation and flights are booked or plans finalised as this is more likely to result in agreement and reduce any conflict.

If you and your ex-partner have agreed that the children will spend time with each of you on Christmas Day, make sure you plan such things as to what time changeovers will occur, how changeovers will occur, and who will be collecting the children. You may want to consider one parent spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning with the children and the other spending Christmas Day afternoon and Boxing Day with the children.

Co-parents should be able to agree on:

  • Where the children will be spending the holidays, if not at home;
  • How, when and where changeovers will occur;
  • Time spent with extended family members; and
  • Any activities, social or religious events the children will be attending.
  1. Communicate with your co-parent

School holidays, particularly at Christmas, can be a difficult time for children in separated families so it is important that parents are able to communicate in a child focussed way about what is in the best interests of the children. Communication does not need to be face-to- face. It is often best that parents discuss their parenting arrangements by text or email as you can both cross-check plans and decrease any confusion.

  1. The best interests of the children

Above all else, consider how the children would like to spend their Christmas break and whether it is in their best interests. Do not ask the children directly but be in tune with their feelings and what they are saying to you. Where possible, try to ensure the children are able to see both sides of their family such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Remember that Christmas should be an enjoyable and exciting time of the year for children. If your relationship with the other party is conflicted and you are unable to make arrangements at Christmas time, organise for a day other than at Christmas to spend time with the children and your family, have a meal and to exchange gifts.

  1. If in doubt, take action early

If there are no Court orders in place and parents simply cannot agree on how the children will spend the Christmas holidays, or if one parent is withholding the children from the other, you need to act quickly. In most situations, parties are required to attend mediation to attempt to solve the dispute before going to Court. You should contact our solicitors in Rockhampton to discuss pre-action procedures and the best course of action.

It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.