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The Law and You: Sharing kids at Christmas

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Christmas is meant to be a time for love and coming together.

But holidays aren’t always comfort and joy when you’ve split from your partner. Holidays can add stress, especially when it comes to deciding how to share the children. Here are practical tips and thoughts to help make life as enjoyable as possible for you and your children over the holidays.

I’m separated from my partner. How do we decide to share the children over the holidays? 

  1. Sit with your partner if you can, and plan as much as possible in advance to avoid misunderstandings and arguments. Communication by email can help if you can’t meet face-to-face.
  2. Communicate calmly and respectfully. Consider your partner’s point of view, instead of dictating only what you want. Compromise.
  3. Respect family traditions. Aim for as little disruption as possible.
  4. Adjust on practical matters, such as the need to drive a bit further.
  5. Be civil and discuss issues with your partner where the children can’t hear you.
  6. Make a list of familiar ‘triggers’ for disputes and try to avoid them.
  7. Take time to destress and increase your resilience.
  8. Use technology (Skype or Facetime) to ‘visit’ with the children.

My partner refuses to be fair and we get into heated disputes. What should I do?

Call Relationships Australia or the Family Relationships Centre for mediation and/or counselling. If these services are too busy, arrange for private mediation with a counsellor or a psychologist. If this doesn’t work, we recommend you get legal advice about where you stand at the earliest opportunity.

What if we land in court over sharing the children?

If the matter goes before a Judge, the Court must take into account the benefit to the children of having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect them from psychological and/or physical abuse or harm. The Court must decide what is best for the children foremost, not for you or your partner.

Isn’t it easier to just have the children on my own? My partner can see them after the holidays?

The Court usually considers it best for children to share time at Christmas with both parents. A Judge must decide how to achieve this in a practical way. Dividing Christmas Day between parents is usually seen as the best solution. If the Judge decides the children should spend Christmas Day with one parent, then the Court will likely order that the children spend Christmas Day the following year with the other parent.

What else does the Court consider when making decisions about holidays?

Several factors, including:

  1. How far apart the parents live and how practical it is for them to travel.
  2. The relationship between the children and each of the parent’s extended or blended families.
  3. The ages of the children.
  4. Cultural traditions, such as whether Christmas Eve or Boxing Day are alternative days for the children to enjoy a celebration with their parent.

If you cannot discuss sharing the children with your partner and it’s not possible to mediate an outcome with a facilitator, then it’s sensible to engage a lawyer to write to your partner and attempt to broker an outcome. If that fails, an alternative is be to go to Court. If you need this, you should take steps as soon as possible because the Courts are busy this time of the year.


It’s wise to avoid leaving matters until they get so heated they lead to domestic violence. Domestic violence statistics soar during Christmas.

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Image of ‘child holding a christmas present nicely wrapped‘ via Shutterstock

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