A friend of mine has a theory about Christmas. Last year he said to me “the Spirit of Christmas is mostly about doing things you don’t want to do until you’ve eaten enough ham to put yourself to sleep”. Happy holidays…

Christmas is, of course, the most wonderful time of the year. For many, it invokes fond memories of travelling hundreds of kilometres in a day, squashed in the back of the Pajero between brother and sister. And on we travel, all for the privilege of “having Christmas” with three different factions of The Family. Upon arrival at each long-sought destination, there is frivolity aplenty, like basking in Grandad’s odour or watching Uncle A and Uncle B have a domestic altercation over how best to cook a pudding.

That’s for the lucky kids, who, like me, have nothing serious to complain about. For many children however, the holiday season can be a little less joyful. Especially when Mum and Dad are both determined to ensure the other spends as little time as possible with the kids over Christmas.

Unfortunately, our media adores buzzwords such as “visitation rights” and “parental entitlements”. In addition to missing the point entirely, such words create a sense of “protecting what’s mine” at the expense of the “opposition”. The season can get a little silly when words like “rights” or “entitlements” are used too liberally, particularly when discussing how the kids will spend December 25 amongst so many other special occasions. Put very simply, concepts such as “visitation rights” are long obsolete, but very few articles go viral when the only person outraged is the 11 year old boy or girl stuck in the middle.

In our experience, the vast majority of parents we come across love their children dearly, and almost always mean well. Most of the time, they are superb at putting the children’s interests above their own, and are inspirational in the way they conduct themselves in sometimes trying circumstances.

The conversations we have with clients at this time of year are, just like any other time, around safeguarding the rights and entitlements of the children, and making sure the Christmas period for them is indeed very merry. Children absolutely have the right to participate in the traditions of their parents and families, but they are also entitled to expect to not be caught in a bitter dispute over “visitation” on the night before Christmas.

A little advanced planning and some good legal advice can go a long way to arranging a memorable Christmas for your kids, for all the right reasons. Here’s hoping that love is actually all around them, and the most they can complain about is an overloaded Pajero or a belly full of jelly!

If you would like to speak to one of our lawyers about parenting arrangements over Christmas, please contact us on 07 3210 0281 (Brisbane), 07 4639 0000 (Toowoomba), 07 3812 1392 (Ipswich), 07 3490 1390 (North Lakes) or email our team at [email protected].