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A Festivus for the Rest of Us

By 16 October 2017General, Parenting

Personally, I have always enjoyed celebrating the Christmas and New Year period, warmer weather, early mornings and catching up with friends and family as the year draws to a close and looking forward to the New Year ahead.

After spending nearly 10 years working in family law however, it still surprises me just how diverse my clients’ lives are and what’s important to them. While many people may celebrate the traditional Christmas and New Year holiday period, there are just as many who choose to celebrate different times of the year based upon matters that are important to them.

Over the years, particularly when it comes to parenting arrangements and parenting plans, my clients have described various scenarios that were of much greater importance to them than the traditional splitting of the Christmas and Boxing Day period.

I recall a particular father who was an avid car enthusiast. He and his teenage son regularly worked on their project cars together and it was an activity that they enjoyed. For that particular client, what was more important to him than Christmas Day and Boxing Day was, in fact, the Bathurst weekend. The net result being that after some negotiations at a mediation we were able to craft a parenting plan which provided for him to have time with his son on the Bathurst weekend each year. To that client, that was an important event that he shared between him and his son and his exact words to me were that “he could celebrate Christmas any time”.

While that may seem a slightly unusual example, in the culturally diverse landscape, it is quite common for other significant dates to be of importance. Maybe it’s a special religious or cultural day, the birthday of the child’s half-sibling, Halloween, 4th of July, the Chinese New Year, the summer or winter solstice, a parent’s wedding or something else entirely. Within reason there is nothing in the terms of the Family Law Act which prevent parties from crafting their own parenting arrangements which are suitable to them and in the best interests of their children.

So what does all that mean? Well, in essence, while it’s good to focus on the traditional summer school holidays and upcoming Christmas period, if those days have less significance to you and your children and there are other times of the year which are more important, that doesn’t mean that they take on any less significance. They can be taken into account and recorded in terms of any Parenting Plan or consent order which is ultimately to be made.