June and December months are usually the busiest in family law practices due to parents fighting about the minor children’s holiday contact arrangements. I often tell my colleagues that I turn into Solomon in June and December, unfortunately having to divide the children in half.
Holiday contact arrangements are usually regulated by Mediation Agreements, Rule 43 Orders and Parenting Plans, however to enter into those agreements or to agree on a revised schedule during school holiday periods that agrees with each parent’s leave schedule, holiday arrangements, public holidays and the minor children’s own needs, seems to be an annual adventure.
In family law there is a never a “once size fits all” resolution, however in most instances parents will agree on the following holiday contact arrangements:
- The June and December school holidays will be divided into two portions of equal days and the two portions rotate between the parties annually, in order to ensure that the minor children spend Christmas with one parent and New Year’s Eve with the other parent. The 28th of December is usually the day that the rotation happens;
- The normal contact regime continues (especially for parents who are unable to take leave) and the Public Holidays are evenly divided between the parties);
- Smaller children will rotate on a 5-day schedule being in each parent’s care for a 5-day block period.
In terms of (a) above, the holiday contact period officially starts the day the school closes and continues to the day before the school opens in January. Disputes often arise regarding the official day the school closes versus the end of the academic school year (usually in the case of high school students). Parents can agree to continue the normal contact regime in the period that the academic year ended and before the school holidays officially start as per the directive from the Western Cape Education Department.
Parents can also agree to share Christmas Day and New Year’s Day if they live close together. The minor children will then be with one parent for Christmas Eve and go to the other parent before lunch on Christmas Day.
In the event of the minor children wishing to visit grandparents or family members during the holiday periods, it is advised that same be done during that parent’s contact period. In the event of the minor children wishing to visit friends during the school holiday periods, the parents can agree to restructure the contact period or the minor children can only visit friends during the contact period of the parent in whose care they are and who is willing to agree to this indulgence.
In the event of one parent wishing to exercise holiday contact abroad, the following information needs to be confirmed to the non-contact parent:
- The prescribed Parental Consent Form as published by the Department of Home Affairs;
- Copies of the return flight tickets;
- Confirmation of where the minor children will reside during their stay and a contact number where they can be reached at all times;
- Agreed telephonic contact times (taking into account time-differences);
- A reasonable itinerary.
The parent traveling with the minor children, will need the following documents:
- The signed Parental Consent Form;
- A copy of the non-contact parent’s identity document;
- A copy of the minor children’s identity document;
- A copy of the minor children’s birth certificate;
- An affidavit by the non-contact parent confirming that he/she agrees to the travel arrangements (not officially required but helpful).
In the event of the parents being unable to reach an agreement regarding the amendment of holiday contact arrangements, any parent can approach the Court on an Urgent basis for the relief that will serve the minor children’s best interest.
For more information, contact 021 871 1200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faure & Faure Inc. – Your partner in Law in the Paarl and Boland Area.