I hear jingle bells…

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With Christmas trees and carols delighting the senses at your local shopping centre already, it’s time to think about your parenting arrangements and financial needs for the festive season.

For a lot of family lawyers, right before Christmas can be a flurry of activity.  Trying our best to negotiate what time a parent can spend with their children, what contributions will be made towards various school activities, when changeovers will be, what days each parent can call the child, whether extra money will be given to a spouse to make sure that they can entertain the kids over the holidays.  All too often as well we are called on to interpret Parenting Orders at the 11th hour.

For some, urgent mediations are required right before Christmas Eve in an attempt to ensure that kids will see both parents over the holidays and one spouse has enough money to live on.  Many people panic that their family lawyers’ office will be closed and not available to help if the need arises.

Even with all of this aside, Christmas time can be stressful for everyone.  Bills piling in the door, holidays to pay for and relatives to deal with.  With a little forward planning, making arrangements for your children and your finances over the festive period does not have to add to your holiday headaches.

If there are no Parenting Orders or Spousal Maintenance Orders in place, a conversation may need to be had with your former partner or spouse about where your child will spend their time over the holidays and what resources are needed to ensure that you are able to support yourself and your child over the holidays.  Items for discussion may include short term parenting arrangements, child support and spousal maintenance.

But how much spousal maintenance is reasonable to ask for? Am I entitled to it? Can I seek any contribution from the other parent towards expenses for my children outside of child support?  To answer these questions, you will need to provide your family lawyer with information about yours’ and the other person’s income and reasonable living expenses and your child’s needs.  In broad terms, a person must have a need for spousal maintenance and the other spouse party must have capacity to pay.  You could be entitled to maintenance whether you were in a married or de facto relationship.  For child support, there are certain circumstances where you can seek a higher than assessed rate of child support but these are limited.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then an urgent application to the Court may be necessary if your child is being unreasonably withheld from you, or if your former partner or spouse is controlling the family finances and you are in dire need of financial support.  This is a busy time for the Courts so if you think that an application may be necessary, you should contact us as soon as possible to discuss your options and to avoid delays.

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