School Holidays & Family Law: Who gets the kids?

With school holidays coming up, it can be a difficult time for separated families to agree upon and juggle arrangements in relation to their children and what time they will spend with each parent.

Unfortunately for those families the tension and stress associated with making this decision can add to making the process more difficult.

This stress can be eliminated if parents enter into an agreement in relation to the time each party will have. Many of our clients like the idea of having certainty in relation to the care of the children so that they do not have to renegotiate with their partner each year or at the beginning of each holiday break the time they will have.

There are two options to formalise an arrangement for families in this situation:

  1. Parenting Orders made by a Court; and
  2. A Parenting Plan

Parenting Orders

The majority of our clients will agree upon an arrangement in relation to the children and formalise this arrangement by way of parenting Orders. If agreement is reached between the parties, that agreement can be forwarded to the Court without either party having to attend court.

Parenting Orders address many issues, including the decision making for the children, the time the children will have with each parent on a week-to-week basis and also (if drafted properly) such Orders will address the “special” days including:

  • Birthdays (the parents’ and children’s)
  • Father’s Day,
  • Mother’s Day
  • Easter
  • Christmas
  • New Years Eve
  • Public holidays
  • School holidays

When drafting Orders insofar as they relate to school holidays, a normal practice may be for one party to have the children in the first week of the term school holiday break with the second parent having the children in the second week of the school holiday break. (This is dependent on parents ability to care for the children and accommodate such time).

It is not uncommon for the time to commence immediately following the end of term through until 12noon on the midpoint Saturday in the school holiday period, and provides for time to conclude at 5pm on the Sunday before school reconvenes.

Each Order can be different and drafted accordingly to suit the needs of the party and the children, for example, where children in private schools have longer holidays than children in catholic and public schools.

The benefit of a Court Order is that it is legally enforceable and your ex partner is bound by the arrangement once it is made an Order of the Court.

Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans are usually voluntarily written agreements made between the parties with the help of mediators or lawyers that are signed and dated. They are more flexible than parenting Orders and can be changed regularly allowing a new agreement to be negotiated at different points in time.

Parenting plans can outline the same issues as Orders, however the important difference between plans and parenting Orders is that a parenting plan is not legally binding. The court will consider a parenting plan in addressing any subsequent parenting application but it is not a legally enforceable agreement.

One of the tips and traps that we recommend to each client that comes to see us when planning for the year ahead, is to try and have a line of communication with your ex-partner via email or otherwise, whereby you acknowledge and agree upon the proposed dates at the commencement of each year.

One step that a very successful client takes, is to buy a calendar at the outset of the year and highlight each parent’s respective time with the children, for the year ahead.

When this is planned from the outset, it reduces potential conflict between the parties and assists them in minimising any conflict so far as the children are concerned. This also helps the children know in advance what arrangements are in place for the upcoming holidays.

Each matter is different, so it is our practice at Southern Waters Legal to deal with each parties individual circumstances when they arise and address which option suits them better in their circumstances.

If you would like any further information or assistance with your family’s situation, please contact our family law team on 9523 5535

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