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How can I finalise parenting arrangements before Christmas?

How can I finalise parenting arrangements before Christmas

Co-written by Audrey Akenson

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year… but it can also be a difficult and uncertain time for separated families, especially where there is disagreement with respect to the parenting arrangements for the children over the Christmas holidays.

If you are in a situation where you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent or are in a dispute about the parenting arrangements over Christmas, you should aim to resolve this dispute before the Christmas holidays begin.

  1. Communication

If you and the other parent are amicable and are able to communicate in a non-confrontational and productive manner, it may be most effective to negotiate a verbal agreement about how the child/ren will spend the holidays. It is important to be open-minded and receptive to the other parent’s perspective, and ideally, they will reciprocate.

  1. Dispute Resolution

Another option is to invite the other party to participate in Dispute Resolution, which can be done through a private mediator, or through government-funded services such as a Family Relationship Centre or Legal Aid. Dispute Resolution can sometimes be more effective than simply communicating with the other parent, as you are presented with a third, independent, and unbiased voice to assist in identifying the issues, developing options, and considering alternatives and attempting to reach an agreement.

It is important to note you should only engage in direct discussions or Dispute Resolution if you feel comfortable and safe to do so, and you have no concerns with respect to domestic or family violence.

  1. Parenting Orders

If you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement around Christmas holiday time, you may need to consider seeking parenting Orders from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Parenting Orders are Court Orders that dictate parenting arrangements and attract legal consequences where a party fails to comply with the same. The cut-off date to file an application seeking Parenting Orders before Christmas is by 4 pm on the second Friday in November each year. If you do not lodge your application by this date, it is unlikely to be heard before a Court until after Christmas.

However, it is important to note that the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules require parents to take a number of steps or “pre-action procedures’ before filing an application for Parenting Orders. One such pre-action procedure being that you must make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through family dispute resolution before approaching the Court.

We suggest that if you have complied with the pre-action procedures and have an application for parenting orders currently being prepared, you lodge same sooner rather than later to avoid the 12 November cutoff.

We understand that navigating separation as a single parent can be hard-enough, without the added emotional and financial stress that legal proceedings can attract. Our team of expert family lawyers are experienced and motivated to resolve parenting issues outside of Court wherever possible. If you have questions about how to resolve your parenting dispute before Christmas, or how to formalise an agreement in relation to these arrangements if one has already been reached, we are here to help. Contact us today by calling 1300 959 568 or send an email to our team at [email protected].