We are already seeing holiday and Christmas displays at local retailers and while it isn’t quite Halloween, it is only a matter of weeks until Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are here. With holiday parties to attend with friends and relatives and with guests coming into town for many, this is a busy time of year to schedule. When you share custody and visitation of children, there are additional concerns and calendars involved. The earlier you plan, the better you can accommodate everything. If holiday visitation becomes a high-conflict situation, do not wait if you need to seek the court’s assistance.
Planning for holiday custody and visitation issues to avoid surprises
As families grow there may be new people and activities to anticipate over the holidays. The holiday visitation schedule in your parenting plan might have worked well when the kids were much younger, but as they grow and are better able to travel, plans can change.
Only you can decide if you are going to be flexible with requests to change the plans to accommodate others. Some families elect to split and share a holiday and others simply observe them on new dates that work for everyone. At the end of the day, the focus should be on making sure the children have the best holidays and are happy.
When the inevitable schedule change comes along
Through a phone call, a few texts and emails, you and your co-parent figure out a plan for who is going to be where, with whom and at what times. You are glad you planned and can sail smoothly into the holiday season. Then, a week before the big family get together you find out your former father in law changed his travel plans and now all the schedules and planning fall apart.
Once the smoke clears you may need the assistance of others in resolving conflict before it escalates to a point where emotions have taken over and logic is long gone.
Getting into mediation or court early
A co-parenting counselor or mediator can work with people trying to co-parent with the best interests of the children at the center of their intentions. Where one parent may have been willingly flexible to discuss schedules, having a last minute and major change of plans can cause the once flexible parent to retreat to the visitation schedule as written in the divorce decree.
Ideally, a neutral third party can mediate the dispute and help the parties arrive at a compromise that makes sense; maybe it is an extra week during summer. If the conflict is not resolved and one of the parties wants to ask the court to order a change in the schedule, it is important to get into court as early as possible. Judges may have their own rules on cutoffs for hearing holiday visitation disputes.