Christmas and Holiday Custody: It’s Time to Start Negotiating.

TGB’s Jane Miller writes about child custody over the Christmas and school holiday period, and warns about an important court deadline.

Naturally, most parents look forward to spending as much time as possible with their children during the Christmas and summer school holiday period. 

For separated couples, the desires of both parents to spend as much time as possible with their children during these periods will sometimes come into conflict. It will therefore come as no surprise that Family Lawyers are sometimes required to negotiate holiday care arrangements right up until the last few days before Christmas. 

In order to avoid this nightmare, it is important that separated couples try to come to an early agreement regarding the holiday care arrangements. 

Although it is preferable for parties to come to an informal agreement between themselves, there are some situations where what is being demanded is inappropriate or where the parents do not feel comfortable or safe around one another. 

In those circumstances, attempts should be made to attend ‘Family Dispute Resolution’. In essence, this is mediation. 

If Family Dispute Resolution is unsuccessful or found to be inappropriate, parents should consult with a Family Lawyer in order to attempt to negotiate an Agreement. 

If negotiations conducted by your Family Lawyer are unable to resolve the dispute, parties are able to apply to the Family Law Courts to determine what care arrangements should be made. In most circumstances, the Court will require the parties to provide a Certificate to prove that they attempted to resolve their disagreement by way of Family Dispute Resolution. 

Parents should be mindful of the fact that in most circumstances, an Application to the Family Law Courts for Parenting Orders relating to the Summer school holiday period and Christmas Day must be made before 4.00pm on the second Friday of November. In 2012, this deadline is 9 November 2012. If parties do not make an Application by that date and the Court does not consider that the matter should be given an urgent hearing, a hearing date will be allocated whenever one is available, most likely after the holiday period. 

It is therefore important to start organising the Christmas and school holiday care arrangements as soon as possible. If negotiation and mediation proves unsuccessful, then you should consult with a Family Lawyer well in advance of the Court deadline. This will ensure that there is sufficient time available for your lawyer to attempt to negotiate or draft Court documents if negotiations prove unsuccessful. 

Author: Jane Miller

TGB is South Australia’s largest family law firm. Contact (08) 8212 1077.