“They’re doing what?” was the cry of most parents a week ago when the Queensland Premier announced that the return to school from holidays was delayed. This was met with almost universal cheers (and in my house literal cartwheels) of joy from children.
The announcement may have impacted your parenting arrangements.
It is commonplace for Parenting Orders to include provisions about school holiday periods, often a sharing of the holiday period. The arrangements for school holiday periods are usually general in nature and refer to the gazetted school holiday periods or the specific school’s holiday calendar. This allows for consistency and avoids actual dates being included in a parenting arrangement.
Usually, there will be a reference to children spending half of the relevant holiday period with each parent. This might be as a block period, or in the case of younger children, a week on / week off arrangement.
It is unclear whether the delayed return is an extension of the school holiday period.
Let’s hope that it will not be necessary for the courts to determine this. Common sense would normally dictate that parents will be able to sort out arrangements for themselves and look after the best interests of their children.
When communicating with your former partner about the delayed return to school or the extension of the school year (i.e. with Term 4 ending on 16 December 2022 in Queensland), you may wish to consider:
Both of you and your children will face issues and challenges due to this unexpected and unforeseen change.
Before you begin discussions, consider your commitments (work or otherwise) over the coming weeks and identify what is fixed and what is flexible.
You can then communicate with your former partner, perhaps sharing the dates and commitments. If you can’t do this face-to-face or via technology such as Zoom or FaceTime, you may need to put it in writing so there can be no arguments about what your position is.
Remember: children can be seriously affected by high levels of parental conflict so have child-focussed discussions whenever possible.
Be creative and flexible
When your parenting arrangements or Parenting Orders were formulated, it is unlikely that provisions were included for what to do in the case of a global pandemic.
Solutions could include:
Although some Parenting Orders or parenting plans might have dispute resolution mechanisms, like attending family dispute resolution (FDR) with a Family Relationship Centre or FDR Practitioner, it is unlikely that you will be able to access these types of services at such short notice.
If you would like advice on your parenting arrangements or are unable to reach an agreement with your former partner, Thynne + Macartney’s Family Law Accredited Specialists can help you navigate arrangements.