Co-authored by Lailah Flett
A parenting dispute can be difficult for some separated parents to navigate. Throw Christmas and the heightened emotions that often accompany the holidays into the mix, and these disputes can seem almost impossible to resolve for some families.
We always recommend finalising and documenting your parenting arrangements for the Christmas holiday period as early as possible. The newly amalgamated Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has also introduced a “due date” for filing applications to the Court relating to the Christmas period, which you can read more about here.
However, if you find yourself faced with a dispute over Christmas and your lawyer’s office is closed, you might find the below tips helpful.
- Remember that the best interests of your children are paramount.
Christmas should be a wonderful time of year for the children, and disputes between their parents should not get in the way of that. When discussing parenting arrangements with the other parent, keep your child/ren in mind and try not to let your feelings toward the other parent get in the way.
If you and the other parent do intend to talk about the parenting arrangements, it is best to make sure that your child/ren are not present or able to listen in on the conversation. Make sure you speak respectfully to one another, and try to avoid being aggressive or overly critical: it pays to keep a level, cool head.
- If you already have Orders or a Parenting Plan in place, stick to these.
If you and the other parent already have Orders or a Parenting Plan in place, you should stick to the plan for the Christmas holidays that are outlined in that document. The Court does not look favourably on parents who go against Orders. It is important that you familiarise yourself with what the plans for the upcoming Christmas holiday period are, and that the other parent does the same so you can both be on the same page and have a mutual understanding of what is to happen.
If you have any questions or concerns, or just simply need some clarity about the terms of the current Parenting Plan or Order, make contact with your solicitor as soon as possible. Sometimes, just having another set of eyes read over a document and provide an explanation helps.
- Show some understanding, to yourself and the other parent.
We understand that parenting matters can be emotionally taxing on both parents, and separation from your children is not ideal. Remember to give yourself and your co-parent some understanding and compassion. It is not an easy thing to go through, so breathe, and take it easy on yourself.
Behaving respectfully towards one another also ensures that the children are not made aware of any conflict, and so they can enjoy the festivities and celebrations without worrying about what’s happening with mum and dad.
Although your circumstances might make communication with the other parent stressful, it is necessary to keep you on track during the holidays. Effective communication can help resolve matters, so make sure you keep this in mind heading into the holidays.
If you think you need to write the other parent a text message or an email, draft it but don’t send it straight away – instead, save it and read over it later once emotions have settled. This is a useful way of making sure any written communication is free of any criticism, negativities and allegations that may not be received well, and allow for a more constructive discussion to take place.
If you have concerns leading into the Christmas holidays about your parenting arrangements (or lack thereof), We also have plenty of free resources available on our website to help you navigate through the holidays. We want you and your children to have a wonderful Christmas break, free from negativity and conflict wherever possible, so early preparation is key.