Q: I want to take my children trick or treating this year, but my ex-wife is kicking up a fuss because of Covid-19. I have taken the kids every Halloween for as long as I can remember. We separated at the beginning of the year, so this will be our first Halloween apart. My ex-wife is paranoid about the kids catching Covid while they are with me, so she doesn't want me to take them trick or treating. I also want to introduce the kids to my new partner and think Halloween could be a good opportunity for them to get to know each other. My ex is threatening to get lawyers involved so that she has full-time care of the kids. Can she do that? Is it a bad idea to take the kids trick or treating?
A: Covid-19 has forced us to rethink how we work, socialise and travel. This year, Halloween is also going to look a little different. The Ministry of Health has confirmed it is safe to take children trick or treating. However, not all parents will agree on the level of risk they are willing to take. For parents who have separated, tension can arise if one parent wants to take the children out on Halloween, but the other is not comfortable potentially exposing their children to the virus.
Ultimately it is up to you to decide what you do with your children while they are in your care. However, a co-parenting relationship runs more smoothly where both sides are willing to listen to each other and compromise if necessary.
Many precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of Covid-19 while out trick or treating. For example, it may be agreed that the parent will ensure the children are wearing masks, regularly using hand sanitiser and keeping a safe distance from others. The worried parent may be reassured by the other parent demonstrating that they will take these concerns seriously.
Enforcing these precautions can be difficult with very young children. If the opposing parent is still uncomfortable, it may be best to celebrate Halloween at home this year or with a select few neighbours and friends. If your children are looking forward to it, make it a big event at home. You could spend the day decorating the house and invite their friends over for a Halloween-themed playdate or sleepover with scary movies and treats.
Introducing the new partner
Introducing a new partner to the kids can be challenging to navigate. It is up to you to decide when is the right time to do this. The most important thing is ensuring your children are comfortable. Run the idea past them first and listen to their views. They may not feel ready to meet a new partner yet and this should be respected.
Also take time to consider how your ex-wife may be feeling. Is Halloween typically a family event? If so, it may be best to introduce your new partner on another day. Your ex-wife may already be upset that she will not be taking the kids trick-or-treating this year and having a new partner involved may escalate any conflict. Have a conversation with her about it. Ensure this conversation is not in front of the kids in case it becomes negative. Good communication is fundamental for any co-parenting relationship. The decision is yours to make, but it is best to make it after all opinions have been heard.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
As your ex-wife is threatening to get lawyers involved, it sounds as though you do not have a formal parenting agreement in place. I would recommend putting one in place so that this threat does not arise in the future. A parenting agreement provides certainty for the whole family.
A parenting agreement sets out how day-to-day care of the children will work and any other important parenting decisions, such as which school the children will go to. A parenting agreement is not legally binding. However, you can apply to the Court to have your agreement turned into a court order by consent. You do not need to involve lawyers to reach an agreement or to apply for it to become a court order. For more information, see the Ministry of Justice website.
If you are struggling to reach a final agreement, I suggest you consider mediation. This could be informal or formal. For an informal mediation, you could ask a trusted friend or family member to act as a mediator and facilitate the negotiation between you. Their role is to not to decide the outcome but to ensure your discussions remain productive. Alternatively, you could attend a formal mediation through a family dispute resolution provider such as Fairway.
As a last resort, you could engage lawyers to negotiate a parenting agreement on your behalf or apply to the Court for a parenting order. However, it is best to work things out between you without lawyers if possible. Engaging lawyers often draws out the process and comes at a significant financial and emotional cost.
It is up to you to decide whether you should take your children trick-or-treating. Try to have an open conversation with your ex-wife about her concerns. You may be able to reach a compromise or alleviate her worries. If you are unable to have a constructive conversation, consider attending communication counselling together. Before deciding whether to introduce your partner, think about how it will affect everyone involved. I suggest making a parenting agreement to provide certainty around how you will share the care of your kids.