School Holidays For Separated Parents
Most parents agree that children will spend time with both parents during school holidays and special occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Negotiating school holidays can be difficult following separation or divorce and it is important to make arrangements so that children get time with extended family members.
There is no presumption that children will spend an equal amount of time with each parent during the school holidays.
Generally, if there are court orders or there is a parenting plan in place, there will be special consideration for the children’s school holidays and how the children will spend time with their parents during this period.
Planning School Holidays For Separated Parents
Planning in advance is the easiest and by far the most effective way to minimise the potential for conflict.
You should discuss with your ex-partner the following:
- How changeovers will occur
- What time they will occur
- Where the children will be going during the holidays if they are not staying at home
- What activities you have planned for the children so you don’t double up
- Time that may be spent with other family members
- Ensuring that extracurricular activities are maintained throughout the holidays
Sometimes arrangements with court orders can be confusing and you may not be able to understand what they mean or how it will affect your time with the children.
Communicate with the other parent, or else get legal advice to understand what your obligations are. In this way, you can plan properly and know that the time you spend with the children will be quality meaningful time.
Involving the children in decisions
Involve older children in decision-making whenever possible.
Be prepared to review arrangements and to discuss these with your children as they grow older.
The plan that you had for a 10yr old child will not be effective for the same child when they turn 15.
Younger children may need frequent short visits, whereas teenagers may prefer to spend weekends with friends but have regular email or telephone contact and holidays with the non-resident parent.
Travelling overseas is important for the development of children.
The purpose of travel could be to spend time with their cultural heritage, or it could be to go on an adventure with their parent.
Either way, they are invaluable experiences that will give your child a strengthened sense of identity and connection with their family.
If you are concerned about where your partner is taking your child for safety reasons, you may seek an order from the court preventing them from going. There is also the option of placing a child on an airport watch list to prevent them from traveling.
As with any court proceedings, this should be exercised with caution and only if you believe that there is a strong risk of the child being harmed or abducted.
If there are ongoing parenting proceedings in Australia and you wish to travel overseas with a child subject to the proceedings, you will need approval from the other parent in writing or an order for the court permitting you to travel.
You should read section 65y of the family law act for more information about travelling with children overseas.
When your ex-partner spends time with your children
You may feel anxious when your ex-partner gets extended amounts of time with the children.
Communicating news, itineraries, plans and things such as how well your children can swim will help put both parents at ease.
Try to keep in touch whilst on holiday even if it’s a quick phone call or text.
You may feel resentful and hurt about your child spending time with the other parent, particularly at first.
Children can pick up on feelings and as a result, may feel guilty and confused. This might manifest itself by ignoring or getting angry at a parent.
A Child is being withheld from you
If there is a parenting plan or there are parenting orders in place, then you should immediately refer to that document and use that as your family law guide.
You should ask the other parent for a valid reason as to why your child is being withheld from you.
Make sure you get this in writing as it could potentially be used as court evidence.
If you are unsatisfied with the reason, you could potentially commence legal action.
If there are no parenting plans or parenting orders in place, then you may need to organise a mediation conference with your ex-partner to put one in place.
Under no circumstances do we advise that you take a child from another parent without their consent.
This could have serious ramifications for the mental wellbeing of the child, as well as potential legal consequences in the future.
Withholding a child from the other parent
You may have grounds to withhold a child from another parent if you have a valid concern that the child will not be safe with the other parent.
If there are court orders in place and you want to withhold a child from the other parent, you should seek legal advice immediately as you may be in contravention of court orders.
Birthdays, Christmas and other special days
Some holidays will have greater significance than others such as festivals, birthdays or special days.
Generally, it is important that both parents get time with children on these special occasions.
Children could spend the main festival day, a particular school holiday or birthday at one home one year and at the other parent’s house the next year.
You could alternatively make an arrangement so that the first half of the day is spent with one parent, and the second half of the day is spent with another.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.