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Divorced or separated parents should be mindful when planning for this year’s summertime getaway with young ones, according to Slater and Gordon’s family lawyers.
Family lawyer Steven Edward said last minute planning to travel interstate or overseas during the long summer break could cause legal headaches for parents with shared custody arrangements, resulting in last-minute applications to the Federal Magistrates Court to obtain appropriate court orders.
Mr Edward said it was important for parents to remember to check if the terms of any court orders or parenting plans clashed with interstate or overseas holiday plans.
“People often leave their Christmas shopping to the last minute. Similarly, if they aren’t careful, they could end up having to make a last minute application to the court, seeking leave to have holiday arrangements put in place,” Mr Edward said.
Mr Edward spoke out after a recent case where a last minute ‘surprise’ overseas trip was planned, without the consent of the other parent and without the children having passports.
“When parents separate and children do not have their own passports, one of the parents can only take the kids on an overseas holiday if their ex-partner is willing to sign a passport application,” he said.
“That can be easier said than done. If your ex-partner refuses to sign, you’ll have to apply to the Federal Magistrates Court to ask that a passport be issued.”
Mr Edward said because of the types of problems that could arise in these situations, it was smart to not leave planning to the last minute.
“Dealing with these sorts of problems at the last minute can run the risk that there may not be enough time to have a passport application prepared, served on the other party, and decided by the court before the planned departure date,” he said.
“It’s always best to think about travel plans and to talk to the other parent as early as possible to see if they are happy for the children to go on an overseas holiday. If your children don’t have passports, this issue should be discussed earlier rather than later.
“Very often, separated parents have Christmas and school holiday arrangements spelt out in court orders or a parenting plan. If there is going to be a clash between the plans for Christmas and the holidays and the current requirements, then it’s essential that an agreement is reached with the other parent well in advance of the planned holiday.”
Mr Edward said if divorced or separated parents were having disputes about overseas or interstate holiday plans, it was a good idea to arrange mediation with a Family Relationship Centre.
“You can’t normally make an application to the court about overseas or interstate holidays until you have a certificate to say you have tried to resolve the dispute by mediation. It can take one to two months to go through the mediation process,” he said.
“A last minute application to the court is risky as the application may not be heard in time. It’s best to arrange mediation as early as possible, and to obtain good legal advice.”