The holidays are a wonderful time to spend together as a family and make lasting memories for children. Unfortunately, without fail, every holiday season I have clients call me with some sort of urgent parenting time issue. Instead of children getting the opportunity to be children during the holidays, they are often thrust in the middle of these parenting time battles. As an experience parenting time attorney I’d like to offer some advice for how to reduce the conflict and make the holidays as great as possible for you and your children.
1. Plan ahead.
Many people find the holidays sneak up on them. Ideally you should have the holiday parenting arrangements worked out months in advance. Start thinking now about whether you are going to be staying in town or going elsewhere. Email or call your ex-spouse and discuss your holiday plans. Don’t discuss plans with your children if you haven’t reached an agreement with your ex-spouse as you may end up disappointing them. Also, please know that the courts are especially backed up around the holidays. If you are going to request a hearing to deal with a holiday parenting time dispute, the closer you are to the holiday the less likely it will be heard before the holiday has come and gone.
2. Be willing to compromise.
Some parents have such a history of distrust and lack of cooperation that their first response to any request from their ex-spouse is “No.” Consider agreeing to allow additional time in exchange for you receiving additional time for a different holiday or the same holiday the next year. If your ex-spouse asks for the whole Thanksgiving holiday weekend for a special family trip, then consider compromising and asking for the same extended weekend the next year. Or perhaps you would like a week over the 4th of July. You can then start saving up for the trip and discussing plans with the children. Although it may be sad to not see them on a particular holiday, being able to relax and have fun with them for a longer duration another time should more than make up for it.
3. Make sure you have a specific parenting time plan.
There is no way to understate how important it is that you have a clear and definite parenting plan. Many parenting plans are basic and say things like: “Mother shall have the children for Christmas in even years and Father will have the children for Christmas on odd years. “ What does that really mean though? Consider instead having a designated start and stop time, for example: In even years, Father shall have the children on Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. until Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m. Mother shall have the children on Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m. until December 26th at 10:00 a.m.