Christmas – Top tips and pitfalls for separated parents.

3-December-2018 Family Law By admin

Christmas is coming, and so too are some difficult times for separated families. It is the time of year when the pain of separation is felt most by each member of the family. There is a reason that the Christmas season and its aftermath is the busiest period of the year for family lawyers.

There are some things you can do however to reduce the risk of something going wrong over the holiday period. See 5 top tips from Streeterlaw’s Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer, Simone Green.

1. Plan well ahead

  • Where possible, have the conversation early about the Christmas/New Year/Christmas school holiday period and when the children will spend time with each of you.
  • If you can’t agree; seek help from a mediator. You can mediate at no cost via the Family Relationship Centre. See www.familyrelationships.gov.au. There are many excellent private accredited family law mediators who may also assist for a reasonable fee and may have greater availability and no wait list.
  • A family lawyer can also assist you to develop a parenting plan and ideas for discussion.

2. Think of the children

  • Any arrangements for the children need to be child-focused. While it may break your own heart not to have the children on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, splitting the day may result in long travel times and stress for children, particularly younger ones when the parents’ homes are not close. Consider an arrangement for each alternate Christmas as an option. You can celebrate with the children another day.
  • Many parents consider an arrangement to have the Children one year on Christmas Eve until lunch time on Christmas Day when they live close by, and then the other from Christmas lunch until evening or until Boxing Day. There are many combinations of arrangements worth exploring to reach a negotiation which suits the whole family.
  • Beware of exposing the children to arguments or tension during changeovers. Changeover is not the time to discuss children’s arrangements, financial issues or other subjects of disagreement. If you think this is inevitable, consider having someone else help you deliver or collect the children from the other parent. Try to be punctual. Being late especially at Christmas when there are events to attend, is a common source of parental conflict.
  • Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent to, in front of, or in the hearing of the children. This does considerable damage to the children’s relationship with the other parent.

3. Resist the urge to post on Social Media, text or email

  • Social media provides excellent material for family lawyers and ill-considered posts, tweets, emails and texts often find their way into evidence via the other parent’s court affidavits.
  • Be extremely careful not to make comments about the other parent on social media or encourage others to do so.
  • Carefully consider the language and tone of your email and text communication with the other parent. These can and will be used against you when things go wrong. If polite and respectful communication is difficult, consider using a communication app service such as Devvito which will flag any impolite message or tone and suggest ways in which you could revise your message before sending. There are a number of communication apps available on Google Play or the App Store which may assist in restoring effective communication and avoid misunderstandings.

4. Have a support network

  • If this is your first Christmas following separation it will undoubtedly be an emotional time for you, especially if you are alone.
  • It is important to stay connected with family and friends at this time and have someone you can call or be with at Christmas.
  • Call a Crisis support service if necessary:
    1. Lifeline 13 11 14 or web chat on www.lifeline.org.au 7pm – 12am 7 days
    2. Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or web chat on www.beyondblue.org.au 3pm- 12am 7 days

5. When things go wrong

  • It is likely that the Christmas period will not go exactly to plan. There are always unexpected issues even when planned to perfection including sickness, injury, delays due to traffic and such.
  • Where possible, in an emergency, immediately contact the other parent and advise. Respectful and timely communication is the key.
  • If children are returned or delivered late, avoid arguing in front of the children. Make a note of the time and take it up with the other parent in writing (see tips above) or in mediation or with a family lawyer if the issue persists.
  • If the children are not returned by the other parent, and you have reasons to be concerned about a child’s safety, or if you hold reasonable fears that the children will be abducted and taken overseas, contact the police and a family lawyer as soon as possible.

Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and happy Christmas celebration.

Streeterlaw have assisted hundreds of people through family separation and invite you to make an appointment to meet with one of our very experienced family lawyers by calling 02 8197 0105 or sending us a message using the below webform; we would be delighted to assist you.

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