There is only two weeks to go to formalise your parenting arrangements for the Christmas and upcoming school holiday period with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, explains Attwood Marshall Lawyers Family Law Associate, Laura Dolan.
Parenting arrangements over Christmas
The cut-off date to file an application in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for parenting arrangements is 4pm on Friday 10th November 2023.
Negotiating school holidays with your former partner can be difficult following separation or divorce and it is important to ensure that children can spend meaningful time with extended family members on both sides.
The Court gets inundated with last-minute applications each year before the Christmas holidays. If an application for parenting arrangements is filed after this deadline, the next available date may be after Christmas, except for in urgent circumstances.
However, whilst there is no deadline for urgent applications seeking to be heard before Christmas, there is no guarantee.
Now is the time to review your arrangements and make sure you have everything in place for the upcoming holiday period.
Coming to an agreement
Christmas is a time filled with excitement and celebration. However, it can also be a time that many separated families face conflict over the arrangements for their children.
With 6-8 weeks’ worth of holidays to prepare for, parents need to consider the dates that holidays will start and finish, what arrangements and activities their child will partake in during that time, where children will spend special occasions such as Christmas Day and New Years Eve, and if any travel is on the cards.
In an ideal world, both parents would be able to communicate effectively and negotiate between themselves to ensure there is a smooth transition in place for a child to spend appropriate time with both their parents, and extended family, during school holidays. However, things are not always that simple.
Negotiating your Christmas parenting arrangements
When negotiating Christmas holiday arrangement, some important things to keep in mind include:
- When the school holiday period begins and ends;
- How school holiday time will be divided between each parent;
- How will your child/children spend time with you over between the period of Christmas Eve to Boxing Day;
- When and where changeovers will take place;
- Are there any travel plans scheduled to take plans during this time?
Failed to reach agreement? What needs to be done before filing an application
If you cannot reach agreement about Christmas holiday plans, you may need to seek Parenting Orders from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
It is important to note that before filing an application for parenting matters in the Federal Circuit and Court of Australia, parents must comply with the pre-action procedures for parenting cases to try to resolve the matter at the earliest opportunity without going to court.
It is a requirement under the pre-action procedures that parents must show a genuine attempt has been made to resolve the matter (i.e. attending mediation). If family mediation is not successful, an accredited Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Practitioner can issue a Section 60I certificate which allows parties to make a parenting application.
Section 60I certificates can also be issued based on the following:
- you did not attend mediation as the other party refused or failed to attend;
- you did not attend mediation because the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner considered your circumstances were not appropriate for FDR;
- you did attend mediation however the parties were unable to resolve the dispute after making a genuine effort;
- you did attend mediation however one, or both, of the parties did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issues; or
- you both started the mediation process, but the FDR practitioner considered it would not be appropriate to continue.
Unless you have an exemption, an application for parenting matters cannot be filed in the Federal Circuit or Family Court of Australia, without a Section 60I Certificate.
If parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding their children and how they will spend the festive season, parents should seek trusted advice from a family lawyer who can assist with making an application for parenting orders in time for Christmas break.
If you fail to meet the cut-off deadline to file an application, you will be allocated the next available hearing date, which is likely to fall well after the Christmas season.
In urgent cases that involve domestic and family violence, and other risk factors, there is no cut-off date for applications seeking urgent parenting orders and a section 60I certificate may not be required to be filed.
A parenting order is made by the Court when an agreement cannot be reached by both parents in relation to their children. A parenting order is legally enforceable and if a parent fails to comply with the order, there may be significant consequences. A court may order a person who breaches an order to participate in a parenting program and they may also change the existing order to compensate the other parent for any lost time with their child.
More significant penalties may also be enforced, including enforcing the party who breached the order to pay for any expenses incurred because of the breach, pay for the other person’s legal costs, complete community work, pay a fine, or in extreme cases, face a jail term of up to 12 months.
Parenting orders set out:
- Who the child will live with and spend time with;
- How much time a child will spend with each parent and extended family;
- How changeover is to take place when the child transitions from the care of one parent to the other;
- How the child will communicate with their parents and by what method;
- The allocation of parental responsibility and who can make decisions relating to the child’s care, welfare and development;
- If notice is required for either parent to travel with the child.
It is important to remember that when the Court makes an Order, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides that the child’s best interests are of paramount consideration. It is recommended that parents also use the same consideration when co-parenting and making arrangements for their children.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping families negotiate effectively to reduce conflict
Don’t wait until it is too late – if you need assistance finalising parenting arrangements in time for Christmas, let our team of dedicated family lawyers help you. Our family law team practice exclusively in this complex area of law and are well-versed at handling children and parenting matters. We will ensure the best interests of your children are protected and act quickly so that you can have comfort in knowing your plans are set for the festive season.
Please contact our Family Law Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email email@example.com or free call 1800 621 071.
Our team are available at any of our conveniently located offices at Robina Town Centre, Coolangatta, Southport, Kingscliff, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.