A big emotional toll in a separation is no longer living with your children. Spending time with your children can become more difficult. This is especially true if your relationship with your ex-partner is poor. Special days like Father's Day can present a challenge.
While you were together, Father's Day probably unfolded spontaneously and was largely organised by the other parent. After separation, it is up to you to plan the day and you may feel pressure to give your children a really good time.
Covid-19 has forced us to adapt to many changes. Father's Day may also look a little different this year. Below are my tips for a great Father's Day despite the impact of Covid-19.
Set a plan early
If Father's Day falls on a day when the children aren't in your care, speak with your ex-partner as early as possible to work out how to see them. Last-minute changes can often have a negative impact on your relationship with your ex-partner. If you suspect that conflict may arise, avoid having the discussion while the children are within earshot.
If you don't live nearby
If you live in a different city to your children, your travel plans may have been disrupted by the latest Covid-19 alert levels. Many flights have recently been cancelled. Jetstar announced they had suspended all domestic flights until September 6. This may mean you can no longer be with them on Father's Day.
If you cannot be with your children on the day, don't let it go uncelebrated. Simply choose another day when you can be with them – Father's Day can be whenever you want it to be. The most important thing is to spend time together.
Involve the kids
If you are able to spend time with your children on Father's Day, keep them in the loop. They will probably have been exposed to a bombardment of Father's Day advertising and will wonder if they will be seeing you. If this is your first Father's Day separated from your ex-partner it will be particularly unsettling for the children if they don't know the plan. Ask the kids how they want to spend the day. They will appreciate being involved and having their voice heard.
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Keep your plans simple
Covid-19 has had a significant financial impact on many parents. You may be tempted to outshine the other parent during your limited time with the children. However, Father's Day is fundamentally about appreciating the time you get to spend together. It doesn't have to mean spending money. It can be as simple as making breakfast together, kicking a ball around at the park or talking about things that interest them.
Covid-19 has also caused many events to be cancelled. By keeping your plans simple, you can also avoid disappointing the children if the plans fall through.
Visiting elderly grandparents
You may want to take your children to visit your own father on Father's Day. This may not be possible if they are in an aged-care facility or immuno-compromised. During alert level 2 and above, visiting to the facility may be limited. The children's relationship with their grandparents is still important. You should encourage the children to call them or send a card to share their love.
What if my ex-partner won't let me see my kids?
It can be tough if you and your ex-partner do not have a good relationship. Talking the problem through with them is always best. By listening to their concerns you may be able to reach a compromise. If not, you can pick to celebrate Father's Day next time the children are in your care.
In future, a formalised "Parenting Agreement" can prevent disputes arising. This is a document which sets out various aspects of how the children will be parented and can include who the children will be with for holidays and special days like Christmas, Mother's Day and Father's Day. It can reduce misunderstandings as everyone knows what to expect.
Parenting is a hard but immensely rewarding job. 2020 has presented many unique challenges. It is important to ensure those challenges don't prevent you spending quality time with your children. I wish all the fathers out there a Happy Father's Day!
• Jeremy Sutton is a senior family lawyer, specialising in divorce cases where there are significant assets, including family trusts and complex business structures.