Find out how Interact Support can help.

Joanne Law

The holiday season can be the best and the worst of time for people after separation.

If in the past holiday periods meant a time of greater risk of family violence incidents it can be very tempting to block any attempts by other family members to spend time with your children.

That’s understandable but is it in the best interests of the children?

For those who are not able to spend any time with beloved children,  grandchildren, nieces or nephews it can be very depressing. You miss out on seeing and spending time with the children and they can miss out on family rituals that are a meaningful part of their childhood.

Interact Support offers a solution to negotiating contact with children over the holidays.

So what’s the solution?

Interact offers a low cost, no waiting list family dispute resolution service to negotiate time with children for special occasions like the end of year holidays.

The services are provided by Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners who understand trauma and the challenges associated with communication that family members have after a relationship breakdown.

Who is this service for?

Holiday Arrangements mediation is for anyone who has a relationship with a child who finds it difficult to communicate directly with the child’s primary care giver.

Is it safe?

The service is delivered by Video Mediation or Mediator Facilitated Negotiation. That means that there is no need to travel to a central location.
The service includes a full risk assessment and an open discussion of any concerns you might have about the safety of the children. If there are concerns they need to be addressed to make sure that child safety is the number one priority.
 

What is the Holiday Arrangements Process?

 

Step One: we conduct a mandatory risk assessment and preparation session with the family members who will be caring for the child if the negotiation is successful. This session, called pre-mediation is conducted by a family dispute resolution practitioner by phone or video meeting.

If there are no barriers to proceeding we determine the next step. Sometimes there is a refusal by the primary care giver to participate in mediation and if that is the case we may be able to offer mediator facilitated negotiation.

Step Two: if both participants are willing and able to join a video meeting we will facilitate a discussion of the options for the Holiday Arrangements.

Sometimes limited access to the internet means this discussion occurs by phone. We prefer that you are able to meet via video meeting as it gives you both the chance to see each other and speak face to face. If you are feeling anxious it is possible to have a support person in the room with you on your end of the video meeting.

Step Three: if an agreement is reached the mediator will document it for you to make sure that everyone is absolutely sure about what has been agreed.

What about if there is a Court Order in place?

If there are Family Court Orders in place the mediator will need a copy of the orders. The Holiday Arrangements agreement may be able to vary the orders if it is written up in the form of a Parenting Plan. Both people with parental responsibility will have to sign the agreement for it to become a Parenting Plan and be able to vary the Court Orders. This is important if your arrangements could be considered to be a breach of the orders.

If there is a Family Violence Order in place the mediator will need a copy of the orders. They will discuss the provisions with each of you as part of step one.

If the protection order permits contact in accordance with a Family Law Agreement you will need any agreement you reach to be written up into a Parenting Plan. If the protection order allows it you will then be able to have the contact without breaching the order.

DO NOT initiate direct contact with your former partner or child if your intervention order prohibits contact without a family law agreement in place. Making contact even if the contact is to send a gift or ask how the child is will be a breach of the order and could have serious legal consequences.  

  • What if we have a Parenting Plan in place?

If what you agree varies the Parenting Plan the mediator will help you to update the Parenting Plan.

What can the arrangements be?

Holiday Arrangements can vary depending on your circumstances. Some of the options include:

 

  • – being able to send the child a gift
  • – having a phone call or video chat with the child
  • – spending supervised time with the child
  • – the child attending church, family lunch or other activity with you
  • – a sleepover or short stay
  • – a longer trip with the other parent or family members such as a visit with a parent, cousins or grandparents
  • – other arrangements that are appropriate for your family situation
 
The type of arrangements that are agreed will depend on the age of the child, the level of the previous conflict and if they are old enough, what the child thinks about what is proposed.
 

“If you are not confident that other family members understand the harm that exposing children to conflict causes you can request that they do the New Ways for Families course as part of the negotiation of time spent with your child”  Find out more.

What does the service cost?

The standard fee for the service is $500 or $250 each if you share the cost equally.

This includes the risk screening and preparation for two people and one to two hours of phone or video mediation or mediator facilitated negotiation.

Our normal hourly rate is $198 per hour so if you decide you want to continue on and negotiate a more comprehensive agreement we’ll talk to you about additional costs.

Can’t afford that? Tell us what you can pay and we’ll dip into our hardship fund to cover the rest.


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Author: Joanne Law