Co-Parenting and School Holidays
by Lajita Allan-Agnew
Parents in a loving, supportive and cooperative relationship must plan how they ‘are going to parent’ during school holidays. This is the same for a separated couple. The key difference is that you are not living under the same roof and you may not be communicating as seamlessly as you would be in a cooperative existence.
Added layers of complexity arise often during the summer school holiday period at the end of the school year, when one parent may want to travel overseas. Because you are no longer a couple, you are no longer going to the same destination and are not spending your Christmas day with the same set of family and friends. So how can you idiot proof co-parenting during school holidays?
Plan, plan, plan…did I mention plan?
Your parenting arrangements can be made via parenting orders or consent orders. This may make knowing who the child will be with a little easier but not perfect because life is not perfect. In fact, when it comes to a life with children, it is turbulent.
Commence your dialogue at least a month before the school holidays either confirming the parenting arrangements. Issues that can be covered in parenting orders are for example, or things co-parents can agree on include:
- How, when and where changeovers will occur;
- Where the children will be spending the holidays, if not at home;
- Time spent with extended family members; and
- Any extra-curricular activities or social events the children will be attending.
If you are wanting to do something different to what has already been agreed to then the onus is on you to table the proposal at least a couple of months in advance. Don’t forget, your ex-partner may have made plans based on the parenting agreement and may not be able to change them for you.
What about Christmas?
I had a client who was party to a rather contentious family law parenting court proceeding. The only silver lining for the child was that both parents attributed opposite levels of importance to Christmas. One celebrated it and the for the other, it was new year’s holiday that was paramount. This is not always the case and Christmas may be of significance to both parents. Remember when we were children at a playground and we had to take turns? Yup, you guessed it! If Christmas is important to both parents, take turns spending Christmas day and Christmas eve with the child/ren.
What about what the children want for Christmas?
Remember in Home Alone (the original) when they left a child at home during Christmas? To all separated parents, do not forget about the children, what they want and what is in their best interest. Say for example one parent wants to take the children overseas to a once in a lifetime Disneyworld trip. Can you say no just because it’s not that parents turn? Remember, this is not about you! Obviously if your child wants to go to Disneyworld with their mother, say yes because the child won’t remember that you spent that Christmas with them but that you stopped them from a once in a lifetime opportunity. Further, when it comes to overseas travel, parents can make an application the Family Court to be allowed to travel.
“The left hand must know what the right hand is doing” translation: Communicate, communicate, communicate”
Coming full circle to plan, plan, plan – well you are not equipped to do that if you do not communicate “well” with the other parent. I put speech marks around the word “well” because for example, if you want to change parenting arrangements from that in the parenting orders, be respectful, somewhat humble and considerate when requesting a negotiation for a change in plan. Focus your communication around how the holiday pan will affect the child/ren and what will be good for them. Also, the great thing about being magnanimous is that the next time when you may need a change in plans, because of the manner in which you communicated and accommodated, your request will have A HIGHER SUCCESS RATE.
If you would like some advice specific to your circumstances, or would like FURTHER LEGAL information, please contact TBA Law on 1300 043 103 to make an appointment in in any one of our offices located in Melbourne, Nagambie, Romsey, Wallan and now in Seymour.