Going through a divorce is difficult anytime, but especially when there are contested custody and parenting time issues. In an ideal world, most parents want their children to go through the divorce process with as little disruption to their lives as possible under the circumstances. As you navigate through the divorce process, one way to help provide your children with stability is to plan ahead.
As September comes to an end we are reminded that the upcoming holiday season (including breaks from school) is upon us. Have you and your spouse worked out how to share holiday and school break parenting time for your children? If not, now is the time to both start thinking and acting on it to allow sufficient time to resolve any disputes prior to the start of the holidays and school breaks.
Courts generally frown on motions to set holiday parenting time or school break parenting time when they are brought as an emergency right around the time of the particular holiday or break. Since holidays / breaks come at approximately the same time each year, any potential conflicts should have been anticipated earlier. Like most things in divorce, there are exceptions to every rule and there may be circumstances where there truly is an emergency that needs to be addressed (i.e. unexpected family event, an agreement that was retracted, etc). However, in an effort to provide stability for your children, as well as allow you time to plan ahead, it is much better to spend time and effort addressing the issue now and avoid last minute emergencies. Moreover, if the issue cannot be resolved, there is still time to bring the matter to court.
The following are four tips on how to broach the subject with your spouse, as well as, steps to take if things deteriorate:
1. Have a candid discussion with your spouse about how each of you would like to share parenting time with the children over the upcoming holidays and breaks from school. A brief statement that the holidays are coming up and you want to make sure everyone has a time with the children this holiday season is a good way to break the ice and get the conversation started. This should be attempted even if things have been acrimonious with your spouse. Try to address the issue of holiday parenting time with your spouse now. Even if the response is no, or something unreasonable, your effort at working through this amicably will aid your case.
2. Attempt to work through scheduling in a way that makes sense for you, the children and your family at large. Recognize that to accomplish this may require some give and take since, for the first time, you need to consider how to share your child’s holiday or break.
3. Think outside the box in terms of the way holidays have been traditionally handled, as the prior traditions may no longer work for your family.
4. Confirm any plans or agreement with your spouse in writing. If there is a dispute down the road, this writing may prove invaluable and may resolve the issue quickly.
If you cannot reach an agreement, talk to your attorney, who will advise you the most appropriate next steps – which may depend on who else is involved in your case (i.e. a guardian ad litem, child representative, child custody evaluator, mediator, etc). Hopefully, your family’s past holiday traditions have provided good memories for the children. As you embark on this next phase, remember that you have the opportunity to create new traditions with your children. Rather than let the change influence your holidays, take this opportunity and plan ahead for a great holiday season for your family. If your spouse obstructs your efforts to plan, contact your attorney sooner rather than later so any problems can be timely addressed.