Shared care of children – arrangements over the Christmas summer school holiday period

With the festive season fast approaching, if you share care of children with your former partner, and have not yet reached agreement as to time during the Christmas holidays, we suggest you look at doing so now. Disagreements often arise as to what equates to half of the holidays, or when and where changeover should occur (that is, the children going from the care of one parent, to the other).
If you are recently separated and this is the first Christmas that your children will be experiencing following the separation with your former partner, remember to approach reaching an agreement with your children’s best interests as your primary consideration, as should be done with all discussions relating to the children.
We provide the following general suggestions and information:
If there are parenting Orders or a Parenting Plan
Many Orders are drafted to allow parents to reach an agreement between themselves, but otherwise, the time specified in the Orders shall apply. Some Orders alternate Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day between odd and even years.
You should carefully read the Orders, and when they define the holiday period as commencing and concluding. If your Orders allow for an agreement to be reached, and you and your partner are unable to reach an agreement, you should follow the Orders.
The same applies with Parenting Plans.
If you and your partner have not already confirmed in writing with each other, the dates and location for changeovers, we suggest doing so now, to avoid any last minute issues or disagreements.
If there are no formal arrangements in place:
Definition of the holiday period
If you don’t have Orders or a parenting plan, you first need to agree as to what the school holiday period consists of. Often, the holiday period commences at the end of the last day of the school term, and concludes on the last day before the first day of the following school term. It is a simple way to know the first and last day of each school holiday period moving forward.
For example, based on the NSW public school holiday calendar, the last day of term is Friday 20 December 2019, and the first day back in the new year is Tuesday 28 January 2020.
“Midpoint” day
Where it is agreed that time is halved equally between you and your former partner during school holiday periods, and if the holiday period concludes on the day before the first day of the next school term (to enable organisation for the first day back at school in the new year) there are 39 nights from Friday 20 December 2019 to Monday 27 January 2020 (we note that Monday 27 January 2020 is a public holiday for Australia Day, which falls on the weekend). Based on the NSW public school holiday calendar and dates referred to above, the “midpoint day”, were time to be split as two block halves, would be the middle of Thursday 9 January 2020.
However, this does not take into consideration, what the arrangements are on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. It is provided for guidance and a starting point in the event that you have not yet had discussions with your former partner.
Conclusion
Always keep your children’s best interests in mind, particularly if the separation was recent and this is the first festive season that you will not be spending together as a family unit, so that both you and your children can have a smooth and enjoyable holiday period.
If you have Orders that you need assistance understanding, or if you would like to confirm arrangements formally, Longton Legal’s family law team can assist you. Please contact our office for further information.

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