Dealing with child custody arrangements following separation can be a very challenging and exhausting process. When addressing child custody or care arrangements, you always need to consider school holiday periods.

Always consider the following factors when discussing care arrangements over the school holiday period:

1. Court Orders

If there are Court Orders in place regarding care arrangements for the children over the school holidays, it is very important to strictly follow these Court Orders (even if you don’t agree with them).

2. What is in the best interests of the children?

This is the overarching consideration in relation to all matters affecting the children. The law states that children should spend equal time with each parent, provided that it is reasonably practical and in the best interests of the children.

When determining what is ‘reasonably practical’, consider the work commitments of both parents, and whether that is going to impact on either parents’ ability to care for the children during school holidays.

The ‘best interests of the children’ may be guided by any of the following considerations:

- whether the kids need to be protected from harm;

- the existence of any Intervention Orders involving the children;

- the likely effect of any changes on the children to the current arrangements outside of school holidays; and

- the coparenting relationship and the proximity of the parents’ residences from each other.

3. Communication

It is easy to put off discussions with your former partner. This can often exacerbate your co-parenting relationship. In order to avoid this situation, it is important to communicate with your former partner and ask questions whenever in doubt.

Always maintain open communication channels and try reach an agreement on school holiday care arrangements at the start of the schooling year. That way, you will not leave these discussions until the last minute which may cause further stress and uncertainty. Keep in mind that your children benefit strongly from having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

If you are considering taking the children on a trip during the school holidays, always be upfront and discuss this with your former partner prior to making any holiday arrangements.

4. Don’t break agreed arrangements

Always follow the arrangements that you have agreed to with your former partner. If you are having difficulty with certain arrangements, communicate this with your former partner. Breaking arrangements will only build resentment and erode trust in your co-parenting relationship, which will be of no benefit to the children.

5. Never discuss parenting matters with your former partner in front of the children

Discussions regarding parenting arrangements with your former partner should not be held in front of the children. These discussions should be held privately.

Always avoid arguments with your former partner in front of the children (whether in person or over the phone).

6. Changeover

If there is a risk of conflict at changeover of the children, consider involving a third party to assist. This could be a family member or friend who is trusted by both parents. Alternatively, you could consider engaging a Family Contact Centre to assist with changeover of the children during school holidays.

This article is intended as general information only. It is not legal advice. For more information, please contact our Family Law team on (03) 9435 9044.