Being with our family during the holiday period, is usually an exciting and memorable occasion, during which family bonds are strengthened and long-lasting memories are made. But for many divorced parents and children, parenting arrangements over the holidays can also become another source of conflict and tension – unless proper Parenting Arrangements have been set.
There are basically two options to avoid this unnecessary holiday conflict – a Parenting Plan or a Parenting Order.
Do You Need A Parenting Plan?
Parenting Plans are drawn up voluntary by the two parents, usually with the assistance of a mediator or a family lawyer. They should include parenting arrangements for the customary school holiday periods and for all special occasions, such as birthdays, family celebrations and religious and cultural events.
The advantage of a Parenting Plan is that it is flexible and may be renegotiated in the future, and it is less costly. It will however, only be suitable if an amicable relationship already exists between the parents. The downside of a Parenting Plan is that it is not enforceable by the Courts.
Do You Need A Parenting Order?
If the relationship is in a continuous state of conflict, and the possibility exists where either parent may not abide by the terms of the Parenting Plan, then another option would be to seek a Parenting Order by the Court.
It will set out specific arrangements, such as, exact dates children will spend with each parent during holidays, and all special family and religious occasions. A Parenting Order can also include details regarding interstate and overseas travel.
Parenting Orders are enforced by the Court and heavy fines can be imposed if either parent contravenes any of the conditions. This alone can be enough to reduce conflict, making the holiday period a pleasant affair for everyone.
Family lawyers often recommend a Parenting Order, even if the two parties seem amicable during the divorce, because things may change down the line, as they so often do. Although they are costlier to obtain, the long term security of a Parenting Order will provide more peace of mind, and may be worth the extra cost.
What About Interstate & Overseas Travel?
It is an unfortunate reality that after a marital breakdown, when one parent has relocated to another city or state, the children may need to travel considerable distances to spend time with that parent. A Parenting Plan or Parenting Order , should include conditions relating to interstate or overseas travel.
It is in the absence of such a document that disputes arise. To avoid that, the planned trip should be discussed in detail and agreed upon by both parents well in advance. Carrying a letter of consent and the parenting agreement itself during travel, is recommended, even if the travelling parent has sole custody of the children.
If a parent does not have the consent of the other, an application to the Court to permit overseas travel will have to be made. The Court may allow the children to travel, providing there is no risk and it is in their best interests.
If you are unsure of your rights, it is always best to seek legal advice from a trusted divorce lawyer or by mediation through family mediation services. The same also applies for any parent wishing to prevent a child from travelling abroad.
Who Will The Children Be Spending Time With?
It is natural for any parent to be concerned with whom their children would be spending their time while they are away. It is best to be open and upfront with your ex-spouse to avoid a showdown after the holiday, because it will certainly come out. The simplest way to do that is to avoid any contact with anyone your ex-spouse might not approve, but this might not always be possible.
How To Avoid Holiday Conflict
If you have had an amicable relationship with your ex during the year, there should be no reason for any disputes to arise over the holiday period, as long as both parents remain reasonable and put the needs of the children first. A good place to start would be to abide by the terms set out in your agreement. That’s why they were made in the first place.
The best way to avoid any conflict is to discuss your proposed holiday with your ex well in advance prior to making any arrangements. Provide all the information including mode of transport, location, people who would be spending time with the children etc., etc.
Avoid arguments, especially in front of the children and calmly address any concern your ex-spouse may have. Any tension between the parents can seriously affect the children, spoiling the entire holiday for everyone. Being prepared for some give and take and remaining flexible will go a long way to ensure a stress free holiday for everyone.
What Happens On Special Occasions Like Christmas?
Families may have been accustomed to spending special occasions like Christmas in certain traditional ways, but with divorced families, it is inevitable that things may change.
It is normal for both parents to want to spend this special day with their children, but if that is not possible, then new traditions will have to be made. Consider creating some new traditions, such as celebrating a “Second Christmas” or alternate between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day every year.
Children deserve to spend time with both parents regardless of their locations or differences. No matter how traumatic the separation may have been, parents need to try and put aside any differences and allow the children to adjust to the changes in their lives as smoothly as possible.
If you have any questions about parenting arrangements over the holidays that we haven’t addressed in this blog, book a free 15 minute phone consultation with one of our trusted divorce lawyers in Perth at Hickman Family Lawyers today.