Christmas For Separated Parents – 10 Top Tips

I can almost hear your eyeballs roll – Christmas already??

It is important to ensure that things are in place early for separated parents.  If you don’t have arrangements in place for your kids for Christmas and want the Family Court of WA to make a determination about who spends what time with the children over the Christmas period it is essential that applications are filed within the time set by the Court.

That time in Western Australia is by the second Friday in November.  This year the cut-off time is 4 pm on Friday 9 November 2018.

It is important to note that this is the deadline for the Court to deal with applications for time spent with children during the entirety of the summer school holiday period.  Relevantly, the Court does state in its Case Management Guidelines, that:

“Parties should be aware that applications files prior to this date are not necessarily guaranteed to be listed or determined prior to the commencement of the relevant school holiday period.  Such applications should be filed as early as practicable to ensure an appropriate listing date.”

We recommend that if you want to ensure that you have some quality time with your children over the summer school holiday period, and it might not be something that can be agreed between you and your co-parent, you may need to start thinking about doing something soon, so that there is time to negotiate with your co-parent, and if an agreement can’t be reached, time to file and have an application determined by the Court.

Preparing for Christmas – Top Ten Tips

Everyone knows that Christmas can be a very special time for children, and most parents want to ensure that the celebration is not marred for the children by disputes between the parents.  In order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible here are our top ten tips:

  1. Have a plan. As early as possible ensure that an agreement is reached between parents about where the children are spending their times, and how they are travelling between each parents’ house.
  2. Be as co-operative as possible. This sounds simple, but often the dynamics of separated parents means that it may not be as easy as it sounds.  Some things to remember include to put the children’s best interests first; try to accommodate your co-parent’s leave schedules (you never know when you may need to have this reciprocated), and remember that the most important thing to your children may well be that there is as little conflict as possible.
  3. Confirm in writing. Often we might say something, and it isn’t always remembered accurately.  Once you have discussed the arrangements, ensure that you confirm them in writing so that you are sure that everyone is on the same page.
  4. Put the children first. This one might be especially important if it is your first Christmas without your partner.  You might feel upset about your first Christmas “on your own”, and it may bring up memories of happier times as a family, but remember that Christmas is really about the children – don’t let them know that you are feeling lonely, especially if they are spending time with their other parent – don’t allow your children to feel guilty about not spending time with you – they will have to split their time between both of their parents, and this may not be easy for them, but make it as seamless as possible.
  5. Start some new traditions. A new tradition may be just what you and the kids need to take your mind off the last Christmas together as a family unit, and can be a great way to ensure that there are many happy memories of Christmas for your kids despite the separation.  You might consider a celebratory breakfast instead of lunch (depending on when you will see the kids); spending some time together with a voluntary organisation to remember the true meaning of Christmas, or spending some time at the beach together.  It is normal for family traditions to evolve to embody to a new situation.
  6. Co-ordinate your gift-giving. Obviously there are some instances where this won’t be possible, but if you have a fairly good relationship with your co-parent it can be really beneficial for the children not to receive two of the same or similar items.  It is also important that gift-giving doesn’t become a competition between you and your co-parent.
  7. Keep your children informed. Make sure that your children know well in advance what the arrangements are for Christmas – put it on the calendar so that they know exactly what is happening, and encourage their excitement about the time they are spending with each of their parents.
  8. Don’t make your children choose. Leaving the arrangements up to any children other than near-adult children (who, by that stage, will probably largely be governed by what their friends are doing) can be a recipe for disaster – this can place undue stress and pressure on your children.  Your children will feel loyalty and love to each of their parents and asking them to choose is simply not fair.
  9. Christmas is about family. Not just your family, but your children’s family, which of course includes your co-parent and his or her extended family.  If your child is not going to be spending time with your co-parent on Christmas Day, it may be really important to your child to have a quality Skype or FaceTime call with your co-parent, and other family members, including grandparents.  Make sure that you make plans for this to occur well in advances with everyone, and let your child know that this will be happening, so he or she is not left wondering about when he or she will speak to Mum or Dad, Granny or Grandpa.
  10. Have fun! Your children are very intuitive, and they can sense when there is tension or stress in the air.  If you plan well in advance, including being mentally prepared yourself for possibly your first Christmas by yourself for a while, you can ensure that your kids will still feel the magic of Christmas!

About the author: This article has been authored by Jacqueline Brown who is a Perth lawyer and director at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Jacqui has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning.  Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.

If you would like legal advice from Jacqueline Brown, you can choose a Quick Match or browse Our Lawyers.

This article is written by Jacqueline Brown and was first published on Lynn & Brown.

This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practising lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Legally Yours Pty Ltd accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.

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