Parenting preparations and Christmas – no cheer from the Federal Circuit and Household Court docket of Australia – Household and Matrimonial

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The most turbulent time for separated parents is usually the annual overflow over the summer holidays and where the children will be on Christmas Day. If you failed to reach an agreement with the other parent and were hoping that the Australian Federal District and Family Court would help you in 2021; I have bad news. If you apply now, you won’t get a return date until well into 2022. Therefore, parents who have yet to resolve these issues must compromise and reach an agreement rather than relying on the Australian Federal District and Family Court.

Summer holidays and Christmas for separated parents

Of course, depending on the age of your child and their needs, parents often have very different views on how the summer vacation should be divided up. You should just split them up: one parent has the first half and the other has the second; or is a rotating week over arrangement best?

Parents are also often at odds over the Christmas holidays. Most parents want their child to wake up in their household on Christmas morning; We all remember the thrill of running out of our rooms (as early as our parents allowed!) To find numerous oversized wrapped gifts. It can also be a significant extended family day with long trips to visit relatives we haven’t seen all year.

But what happens if you want to take your child with you on vacation for a few weeks while the other parent wants a rolling week of vacation? What if your two families have an important lunch planned for Christmas Day and each of you wants your child to have an important family experience there?

Australian Federal District and Family Court and Delays

The Australian Federal Supreme Court and Family Court are known to be inundated with cases in Australia and there is a huge backlog. This means your first return date will not be scheduled as soon as expected if a parenting application (or any other application for that matter) is submitted.

On the Brisbane Register, your first trial will be scheduled in approximately two months from the date of your filing. I understand that this time frame is largely standard in other states.

The only exception is when a serious problem is really urgent, such as suspected child abuse. In this case, the application could be made much earlier. A dispute over which household a child wakes up in on Christmas Day is not urgently listed.

Obviously, a time frame of roughly two months leads us into the year 2022. Parents who are therefore not already sitting before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia cannot expect to file an application this year and have it in time for a judge for the Summer holidays or Christmas arrangements 2021.

What options are left?

If you have already been able to resolve these issues with the other parent because the Australian Federal and Family Courts cannot help you this year, then you really have no choice but to step up your negotiating efforts.

A common compromise on Christmas Day is for the child to wake up in one parent’s household and then be picked up by the other parent for lunch. This allows the child to spend time with both parents on the special day and the arrangement can be reversed every year.

Disputes about the time a child should spend with their parents during the summer vacation generally depend on the child’s age and ability to cope with an extended absence from one of the parents. For example, a five-year-old may be too young to be separated from either parent for half of the summer vacation; while this might well be appropriate for a 12 year old.

If direct negotiation does not work, there is still time this year to organize family dispute settlement (such as mediation). Often, the involvement of an experienced and neutral third party can help antagonistic parents to solve parenting problems, even if they are only short-term.

If you have not already done so, you should seek legal advice on parenting arrangements. It is very common that new clients have unrealistic expectations of how much time their child will spend with them (or, in other words, how little time they think the child should see the other parent), which is incompatible with social science research or probable is court results.

© Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers

Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in Brisbane.

This publication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should seek advice specific to your situation and not rely on this publication for legal advice. If you would like us to advise you on any issue relating to this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.

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