Almost every department store you walk into today has Christmas decorations and trees on display. Which means that it is only a matter of time until Santa Claus starts making appearances in shopping centres and children will start writing their Christmas wish lists.
The festive season is a hard time for separated families as they may be compelled to completely change the way in which they celebrate Christmas or face the possibility of missing out on Christmas traditions they previously treasured almost completely.
To avoid feeling like the Grinch at Christmas time this year, it is essential that you prepare yourself for the upcoming Christmas holidays. While you may think two months is plenty of time to prepare yourself for Christmas, as a family lawyer I can safely tell you, two months will fly by and before you know it, it will be Christmas Eve.
Now is the time to start having discussions with your ex-partner about care arrangements for the children over the upcoming festive season. Things which should be discussed are:
- The division of time between you over the school holiday break, in terms of how much time you are each to spend with the children and when. Remember that every family is different so while Betty down the street might split the school holiday break in two blocks with Bill, it might be more suitable for you to alternate the time you and your ex-partner spend with the children on a week about basis.
- Whether either of you wish to travel with the children during the school holiday break, including the destinations and types of travel which are agreed upon, particularly given the current COVID19 restrictions in place.
- How you and your ex-partner wish to divide the time with the children over the period from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day. The way in which Christmas is celebrated is different for everyone. It is important to remember that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day each have a different level of importance for every family. Try not to get hung up on wanting to spend Christmas Day with your children if your extended family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Family Dispute Resolution
If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding the upcoming festive season then you may need to seek Family Court Orders, but it is important that you determine whether you need the intervention of the Family Court as soon as possible as there are processes which must be followed.
It is essential to remember that these processes are reliant upon the assistance of third parties such as Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, or in the event you are unable to reach an agreement, lawyers and the Family Court. Start your preparations and negotiations early to avoid missing out on spending time with your children over the festive season.
Prior to commencing Family Court Proceedings regarding children’s matters, the Family Law Act 1975 requires that the parties attend Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) to attempt to resolve these issues. There are exceptions to this requirement however you cannot rely on the fact that your matter will fall under one of these exceptions. Once you either attempt to commence the FDR process and the other party declines to participate or you attend FDR without reaching an agreement, you will be issued a section 60I certificate.
When you have been issued a section 60I certificate, you are then able to commence Family Court proceedings.
Family Court Process
If you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an agreement through FDR or otherwise regarding the festive season, you will need to commence Family Court proceedings prior to the cut off date, which is 4:00pm on the second Friday of November prior to the school holidays.
This year the cut off date is Friday 13 November 2020.
I want you to imagine the lines of people waiting outside your local David Jones or Myer on Boxing Day, people everywhere, staff frantically trying to assist everyone and people becoming frustrated as it is simply too busy. That is what the Family Court is often like in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Do not be the person who leaves it too late and misses out on time with their children, start having those essential discussions now and commence FDR or the Family Court process if you need to do so.
If you and your ex-partner are having difficulties reaching an agreement regarding the festive season, contact our offices to book an appointment to obtain legal advice regarding Family Dispute Resolution and the commencement of Family Court proceedings as soon as possible.