The school holidays can be a volatile time for separated couples when dealing with school aged children – who should they spend their time with? What about if both parents are working? What about if one parent wants to take the children away?
Here are 7 tips about how things might operate a bit more smoothly:
1. MAKE PLANS WELL IN ADVANCE
Whilst we all know the saying “even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, it is definitely better to have plans than to leave things to the last minute.
If you want to travel with your children, obtain the consent, in writing, of the other parent months before the planned trip, and definitely well before you book airfares or accommodation.
If you make your plans well enough in advance, and the other parent isn’t inclined to agree to what you want this gives you plenty of time to go to mediation, or to apply for a court order if required.
Remember that if you are travelling for an extended period of time with children it is always preferable to ensure that the other parent has a full itinerary with contact details.
2. MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE IS ON THE SAME PAGE
When you are making arrangements for the school holidays make sure they are not vague, such as “I’ll take the kids for the first half of the holidays”.
This can lead to confusion over such things as when does the first half start – is it immediately after school, on the first day of the holidays or on the first weekend? There will also be confusion about when the second half of the school holidays commences, and thus when handover is to occur.
It is much better to put a precise plan in writing with exact start and finish times and dates, including arrangements for handovers and any telephone contact that the other parent will have with the children during the time that the children are not in their care.
3. TRY A LITTLE GIVE AND TAKE
George Herbert (a Welsh poet from the 14th century) once said that “a lean compromise is better than a fat law suit”, and his comments are still just as valid today.
Remember, whilst your partner may want the children for the whole of one school holiday period because they want to travel, they want to spend their own annual leave with the children or they have family coming to visit, the same may occur for you some time down the track, and if you are willing to forgo the children for one school holiday period then maybe your former partner may be more willing to return the favour in the future.
4. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT THE SCHOOL ARRANGEMENTS ARE
Increasingly schools are having in-service days around school holiday periods, and this may mean that your children’s schools have start or finish times or days that are not the norm, or not what you had anticipated.
Make sure that you familiarise yourself with the school holiday arrangements for each child’s school before you proceed to make specific arrangements for each set of school holidays – no-one wants to be that parent who brings their child to school only to find that classes aren’t on!
5. OUTSIDE ARRANGEMENTS MAY BE AN OPTION
If both parents are working during school holidays it is important to know who is going to be making the arrangements for the children well in advance of the school holidays – there are some excellent school holiday programs for children, that many of them would love to attend, but they are usually only available if booked at least a few weeks prior to the school holidays.
If a school holiday program isn’t what you want your kids to be doing make sure that you have other arrangements, such as grandparents or placements with friends or other family in place before the school holidays, and make sure that both parents, and the children know what is happening.
6. WHAT IF WE CAN’T AGREE?
If parents can’t agree what to do with the children on school holidays there are a number of avenues open to them, such as:
- Negotiation between the parents
- Negotiations through a neutral third party
- Negotiations through lawyers
- Court proceedings
Remember that these processes may take some time, so start thinking about the arrangements well in advance.
7. DON’T FORGET WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CHILDREN
The Family Court’s overriding principle when considering all matters involving children is always “what is in the best interests of the children”. Most parents will be trying to put their children’s best interests first when considering what to do with the children on the school holidays, but some people will be tied up in arguments over how many hours each parent should “get”; or how many days each parent had the kids last time; or why it is essential that the children do something with one party.
Try to remain focused on the children, and some of these other issues will fall away.
If you want to talk to someone about arrangements for children over the school holidays, or any other Family Law issues, don’t hesitate to give us a call to make an appointment, and happy school holidays!
About the author:
This article has been authored by Jacqueline Brown who is a Perth lawyer and director at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Jacqui has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning. Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.