Christmas is a time that is meant to be spent with loved ones and friends. It is supposed to be a time of peace to all, and fun and rest. For many it is a special time of year.
Family Lawyers are all too well aware the lead up to Christmas Day is a time that brings with it a great deal of stress for individuals and families.
The Christmas “Pressure Cooker”
There are many factors that contribute towards additional stress and angst for families at Christmas time, whether the families are separated, together or blended in nature.
The first is financial stress. With consumerism at an all-time high Australians are expected to collectively spend in excess of *$11B this year. The younger generation have an expectation of receiving electronic gifts such as tablets and mobile phones, which on their own are not inexpensive.
There are a great many people who are guilty of overindulging each other and their children with gifts. WA has the highest recorded spend per person on Christmas gifts in Australia.
Coupled with an excessive grocery bill, the pressure to meet mortgage payments and pay the utility bills (that seem to be so well timed) – it might feel like putting a match to a powder keg.
Another factor causing raised emotions is the necessity to negotiate shared spend time arrangements with children of separated parents.
Most parents want to spend Christmas day with their children, and sometimes it can be difficult to achieve shared arrangements that work for everyone – and most importantly – the children. In the absence of agreement, arguments can escalate with emotions heightening as Christmas day draws close.
If there are pre-existing arrangements made by the Family Court then parties are required to comply.
Family Law Rule 5.01A states that any application for a parenting order relating to the Christmas School Holiday Period must be filed before 4pm on the second Friday in November leading up to the holiday period. Whilst there is no guarantee that your application will be listed before Christmas, your application will be listed in the usual way, and in most cases, prior to Christmas, unless your application falls within the category of “urgent” e.g., dealing with matters of abuse or risk.
Whilst it now may be too late to secure a Court order for Christmas 2019, it is worth keeping in mind what might occur next year (and years thereafter) so you can start to make plans in advance.
You may even find that you only need assistance to draw up and agree a parenting plan, which is a document that does not require Family Court involvement.
Where can I get help?
Unfortunately, Christmas (and especially the months that follow) is a time that sees higher levels of separation.
If there are children in the relationship, it can be an extremely difficult time for all concerned.
There are many government and private organisations waiting to help people through these difficult times such as Relationships Australia and Anglicare.
Financial hotlines provide advice and direction on how to overcome or deal with the financial results of an excessive Christmas spend.
In our experience, early intervention is essential for achieving the best outcome – whether that is staying together, or separating. For some couples, early intervention through marriage counselling, can see people navigate their way back to successful and happy relationships.
For some the decision to separate is final, and it is those people we seek to help. If you or someone you know is or has decided to leave a marriage or long- term relationship, we would suggest they seek legal advice before putting plans into action.
At Dimond Family Lawyers we have helped many people negotiate a smoother transition, both emotionally and financially through separation, by providing sound legal advice.
Average Christmas spending on gifts (1). WA – $646.
https://www.moneysmart.gov.au › Managing your money –
Australians to spend $11b on Christmas presents – and regret it later