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The Law and You: sharing kids over the holiday period

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We love to think Christmas holidays are joyful, but for those facing family conflict and separation, they can be stressful.

Sharing children over the holidays can be challenging but managing the situation well can make a big difference.

Here’s a brief guide to sharing the kids over the holidays to get the best outcomes for you and your loved ones.

Step 1: Setting up the conversation 

Set a time to talk to your ex-partner. With conflict or separation, discussions can be emotionally charged. It’s easy for situations to escalate.

These tips can help avoid unwanted tension:

  • Meet face-to-face if possible. Communicating through social media or by phone can cause misunderstandings.
  • Select a neutral and calm place to talk.
  • Try to meet before the holidays, to reduce pressures.
  • Arrive prepared to communicate your point of view clearly.
  • If you and your partner don’t agree, stay calm and aim to be reasonable and willing to consider your partner’s perspective and compromise.
  • Don’t have the conversation near the children, especially if you feel things could get emotional.

Step 2: Making a plan

Make a plan for sharing children on all significant occasions, including Christmas. Try to keep it simple and straightforward to avoid uncertainty.

Include a timeline that specifies:

  • The dates and times the children will spend with each of you
  • Where and when you’ll hand over the children, particularly if travel is required
  • Clear instructions on how the handover will take place.

Families that observe different cultural traditions may face issues if the partners differ in their views on religious celebrations. Legally, parents must consult each other on major long-term issues for children, including their religious and cultural upbringing.

Try to respect your ex-partner’s traditional and cultural ceremonies, particularly if they already feature in your children’s lives.

Step 3: Gaining support if needed

If you can’t agree on a solution you may need support, such as:

  • Relationships Australia or the Family Relationships Centre, both of which offer mediation and/or counselling
  • Private counsellors or psychologists

If neither service is available, seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

In some cases, you and your ex-partner may need to appear in Court. If so, the Judge will primarily consider what’s best for the children given the family situation and relationship with each parent.

In deciding, Courts consider factors such as the:

  1. Practicality of sharing the children
  2. Relationship between the children and relevant extended or blended family members of either or both parents
  3. Importance of cultural or religious traditions for the children’s wellbeing
  4. Ages of the children

Step 4: Taking care of yourself and your children during holidays

During the holidays, it’s often the case that separated parents can be highly emotional and overwhelmed. Prioritising everyone’s wellbeing can be challenging.

Aim to be positive. Try to be as pleasant as possible for the sake of your children. Make sure they feel supported and are suitably informed of plans.

Being civil with your partner during holidays can go a long way to enabling your children to enjoy this special time of year. Also, remember to stay in contact with children over social media.

If you’re undergoing separation or conflict during the holidays, remember to care for your own physical and mental wellbeing. Communicate clearly with your extended and/or blended family to manage their expectations and prevent potential confusion or arguments.

Be careful with social media, exercising caution and restraint, particularly if use this platform to negotiate childcare arrangements. Don’t post anything negative about your ex-partner (it’s best not to mention them at all).

While it can be tempting to vent on social media, it’s much better to rely on expert psychologists or counsellors for support.

Final advice

Safety should be your highest priority around holidays. Incidents of domestic violence hit record numbers during these times, so take steps to protect you and your loved ones from conflict.

Sources of support relating to family violence include:

  • Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
  • 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS): 02 6280 0900

In case of an emergency, dial 000.

If legal advice is required, Watts McCray lawyers is here to provide excellent and reliable legal guidance on family matters.

Watts McCray Lawyers is a leading firm of family and relationship lawyers. For more than 40 years, our legal experts have family law, wills and estate planning, commercial and conveyancing services to clients.

If you need help with separation issues, DVPOs, divorce, child support, child custody, property or financial services, call Watts McCray for advice.

6257 6347 | wattsmccray.com.au | facebook.com/WattsMcCrayLawyers 

This editorial was created in partnership with Watts McCray Lawyers. For more information on sponsored partnerships, click here

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