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  • Kerri Eyles

Parenting arrangements and Christmas

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” … except when it’s fraught with arguments because your ex won’t agree to a Christmas parenting arrangement. Arguing about where the children will spend Christmas isn’t very festive. In light of the whirlwind of 2022, we all deserve a much more relaxing and joyful end to the year. For this reason, you should seek to make Christmas care arrangements well in advance so you can enjoy the lead up to the festive period without any unnecessary stress.

What can I do?

The Family Court of Western Australia has deadline every year for applications to be heard before Christmas. In 2022, it was 10 November. By the yearly deadline, if you haven’t already filed an application seeking orders for Christmas care arrangements, the Family Court will be unable to assist you this year. It’s time to ramp up your negotiation efforts.

If you’re on amicable terms with the other parent, you might be able to agree to a care arrangement on the basis of a few informal conversations. However, it’s not always that easy. Engaging the assistance of a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf is often an investment worth making.

If you still can’t agree, it’s not too late to attend mediation or an informal conference. Often the involvement of an experienced third party can help warring parents resolve parenting disputes, even if the short-term ones.

What should I propose?

Some options you might consider are as follows:

  • A common compromise on Christmas day is for children to spend their time with one parent in the morning and with the other parent from midday onwards. This allows for the children to spend equal time with each parent on the special day.

  • Often, parents agree to alternate the arrangement each year. That is, if the children spent Christmas morning with mum this year, they’ll spend Christmas morning with dad next year.

  • If the children can’t spend time physically with one parent (say, they’re currently abroad), spending half an hour on video-call might make their day.

Of course, what works for one family might not work for the next. You should obtain legal advice about the suitability of specific care arrangements in your circumstances.

What if I don’t get what I want?

Christmas is a time for family. There is nothing more festive than being woken up at 5am by your children bouncing on your bed and asking whether Santa has been, or falling asleep on the sofa watching Christmas movies with the kids. Parents disagreeing about care arrangements has the potential to ruin the ideal Christmas. When this issue rears its ugly head, there is only one thing to remember: the children’s best interests are the priority.

If your ex is being entirely unfair and not sharing the children over Christmas, you may need to bide your time and consider applying to the family court next year. In our experience, there are two common ways to fairly deal with Christmas.

Some families will split Christmas with the children with one parent from Christmas Eve, the Christmas day lunchtime, then with the other parent until in the afternoon of boxing day. This will then alternate each year so each parent is able to enjoy Christmas morning with the children.

Other families who tend to travel over Christmas will take turns spending Christmas with the children. The important thing the remember is that if the children regularly spend time with both parents, the Court will almost always make orders to allow the children to spend equal time with the parents over Christmas. The Court will also alternate the arrangements so both parents may enjoy Christmas morning with the children.

Please note the above is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific facts of your legal matter.

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