It is not unusual for recently separated parents to reach this part of the year and panic. The kids are in their last term of school for the year and there are last minute assignments to complete, exams to cram for, end of year parties and concerts, gifts for teachers to source and in amongst all of that, there are almost two months’ worth of school holidays quickly approaching. To add to the surmounting pressure, there is a disagreement about how the school holidays will be shared between the parents.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to parenting arrangements, particularly when it comes to school holidays and special occasions like Christmas or New Years; rather, the paramount concern is what is in the best interests of the children. Without a Court Order or a parenting plan, which sets out in writing the arrangements for the children, parents are often left in a position where they must negotiate between themselves the arrangements for the summer holidays.
There are a variety of arrangements that can work for different parents, such as:
Whatever arrangement is agreed, the overarching consideration is that the arrangements are in the children’s best interests.
If you are unable to reach an agreement by consent, there are two options that parents can consider making at this time of year:
Parents have an obligation to attempt family dispute resolution (FDR) and make a genuine attempt to resolve issues in dispute. Unless in circumstances on urgency, or if there has been child abuse, domestic or family violence such that there would be a risk to the parties in attending FDR, parents must attempt FDR and obtain a section 60I certificate before they can file proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
If you are only seeking interim parenting orders relating to the term 4 school holidays or other interim parenting arrangements, you can file proceedings without attempting FDR; however, in the majority of parenting disputes, attending FDR is a much more cost-effective and time-effective process than attending Court and gives both parents the opportunity to make decisions about parenting arrangements for the parenting arrangements.
Availability for mediation in November and December 2022 this year are quickly filling up; however, it is still possible to secure a date with a suitably qualified family dispute resolution practitioner. Should you require assistance with securing a date for FDR in November or December of this year and would like one of our lawyers to assist you at FDR, please contact our office to discuss.
If you are unable to reach an agreement at FDR or if it is not suitable to attend FDR to discuss parenting arrangements for school holidays, you can file proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, seeking the Court’s assistance to decide about what parenting arrangements for the Term 4 school holidays are in the children’s best interests. Both parents will be given an opportunity to put forward their competing proposals; however, the Court is not obligated to make orders that are in line with either parent’s competing proposals.
Rule 5.03 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 provides that applications pertaining to interim parenting arrangements for the Term 4 school holiday must be filed before 4:00 pm on the second Friday in November. For the 2022 school holidays this means that an application must be filed on or before 4:00 pm on 11 November 2022.
As there is not much time to file proceedings before the end of the year, contact our office today to discuss your options and ensure that you and the children have a peaceful and happy Term 4 school holidays.
Ruby is an Associate in Family Law and has been practicing Family Law since 2019.
Ruby has experience in a broad range of family law matters including international and national relocation matters, urgent Family Law Airport Watchlist matters, complex divorce application, high value and intricate property pools and sensitive parenting matters.
Ruby is also currently studying to complete her Masters of Applied Family Law and has gained the top marks during her studies.