It’s nearly Christmas. When will you be seeing your kids?

If you’re reading this, chances are, you aren’t sure.

For those brilliant co-parents who work together to ensure that their little people get to see all their loved ones around the Christmas season, they do two things right:

  1. They know the importance of meaningful relationships with family, both sides, immediate and extended. Connection. It’s a critical part of being human.
  2. They commit to act in the best interests of their children and stand by that commitment, even if it sucks a bit sometimes.

Now, if you’ve landed on this post, I am going to expect you fall into one of two categories. Either you don’t have an agreement with the other parent so they tell you if and when you will be seeing your children, or you have an agreement or orders but the other parent doesn’t actually comply with them.

Unlike property orders or financial agreements, parenting agreements/orders are entirely reliant on the parties complying with them. When they don’t comply, there isn’t an easy way to enforce the agreement, and the consequences may not be enough to deter it happening again.

So back to Christmas.

Regardless of whether or not any kind of formal agreement is in place, ultimately the outcome will require the same steps to get there.

Check in with your kids

If you get to have regular contact with your children, and they are old enough to have their own views and wishes, talk to them.

Ask them what they are doing for Christmas, how excited they are and what Santa is bringing them (okay, they probably don’t expect Santa to turn up if they are old enough to have their own mature views and wishes…but you know what I mean).

Before you go demanding and enforcing the contact you want over the holiday period, find out how they expect it to look. It doesn’t have to be exactly what happens, but it is good to know. Maybe they have step-siblings or cousins they will be seeing, and you need to know when they will be there and for how long. Perhaps you have family travelling to be there too, you’ll need to know how they feel about that.

They aren’t deciding, but it is good to know where their interests lie.

Reach out to the other parent

If there are orders in place, it might be a case of confirming the changeover details. This is a sound reason to get in contact with them and, all going well, they will simply confirm what you expect to happen.

In the event you don’t have formal arrangements, you might want to let them know you are excited about the season and would love to know when you might be seeing the kids. Ideally, they will give you the answer you want to hear.

If you got the answer you wanted, lucky you. You can stop reading now.

Once again, however, if you are reading this post, it’s likely you aren’t going to get either of those responses.

Before you cut off this communication and give up – see how far you can bridge the gap. Let the other parent know what you are hoping for. What you think the kids would want. And how you think this might work with their circumstances. I know it shouldn’t be about negotiating with the other parent and ‘fitting in’ with their life and what they want. But let’s focus on the results. This is part of the journey there.

It’s time to mediate

Ask the other parent if they will engage in mediation with you.

Private mediation comes at a cost, but it’s your best opportunity to get in before Christmas.

Whether or not the other parent has agreed, you may want to engage a private family dispute resolution practitioner to invite the other parent formally, and to issue a Section 60I Certificate should you wish/need to go to court.

In the best case, they will agree to mediate and you can work together toward a suitable agreement for the Christmas period and beyond. To avoid court and avoid legal processes.

If they don’t engage, or you don’t reach agreement, then…

Book an Initial Consultation with a Lawyer

Whether you attempt to mediate or not, I recommend getting in contact with a lawyer and booking an initial consultation as a matter of urgency.

Sometimes, it may take as little as a letter from your lawyer to remind the other parent of their obligations to comply with parenting orders and agreements. Whilst their own lawyer should have given them this same advice, a timely reminder can be sufficient. It shouldn’t be necessary, but sometimes it will help.

Otherwise, we will look at how best to deal with this, as well as general compliance and arrangements moving forward.

It can be a long road, but you are doing it for the most important things in your life. And Christmas.

Contact JP Family Law & Mediation on 0466 090 434 or email jessica@jpflm.com to talk now.

JP

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