How to decide who gets to spend time with the children at Christmas?30-November-2015 Family Law By Simone Green
The stress of separation can be made even more apparent around holidays such as Christmas when special arrangements are required for each parent’s time with the children. Consequently it is also a very busy time for family lawyers!
It is natural that both parents want to share time with their children on Christmas Day and/or Christmas Eve and this is a common area of significant dispute among parents negotiating a parenting plan or parenting orders for their children.
There is no set rule for who should have the children at Christmas (or any other day in the year). A common theme for parents who live within a short distance of each other is to alternate time with the children so that each parent has some time with the children on Christmas Day if this is a day of significance for both parents. This is a very popular option for the parents but often times very stressful for the children, particularly when they are required to leave their newly acquired bounty behind to spend time with the other parent. It can also mean that the festivities are rushed and more stressful.
Shared arrangements for a particular day can also be restrictive on the parents, particularly if one parent’s family live interstate or a significant distance apart. In these circumstances, we advise parents to give serious consideration to making such an order.
As children get older, a popular decision is to alternate time with the children each year, so that one year the children are with the mother at Christmas, for instance, and the following year with the father. This can often alleviate a lot of the stress, provided that the children are given the opportunity to have telephone or media time with the other parent and family on the day.
No option will ever be completely ideal. Christmas time brings challenges to most families, separated or not. The key is to find a compromise that best meets the needs of the affected children and parents.