Navigating the holidays can be rough if you are divorced and do not enjoy a good working relationship with the other parent. But don’t give up hope. Presuming a properly prepared parenting plan and clear communication, you and your children can certainly get through it.
Parenting Plans are Crucial
A parenting plan should be part of any divorce agreement or judgment, and as a legal document, it will form the basis of any future custody proceedings, should that be necessary. It will also serve as the rule book for you and your former spouse for so long as your children are minors. That is why it is so critical that it be well thought out and prepared properly.
If you are not already divorced, there are various websites and programs that can help you work out a schedule, but we strongly urge you to seek the expertise of a family law attorney who has experience in your local courts prior to agreeing to anything.
Communication is Critical
Even after a parenting plan is in place, we recommend you periodically communicate with your former spouse regarding the holiday schedule in whatever means that’s appropriate between you both. At the beginning of each year, you should discuss the parenting plan for all holidays and school breaks that will occur over the next 12 months to ensure you both are on the same page. If legal intervention is necessary, this will help ensure you have time to do so. Having a writing evidencing confirmation of the plan is quite helpful if there is a dispute later.
2 months before each holiday, we urge our clients to again reach out to their former spouse, confirming the plans. For example, “Just reminding you, and as we addressed in January, I have booked a trip for my two weeks with the children this summer. We will be leaving on June 28th….” It is important to also include the itinerary for your travel.
Alternating Holidays and Years
One common approach is that parents will alternate who has the children for any given holiday. For example, it is common for one parent to have the children on Thanksgiving in “even-numbered years”, meaning in 2022, 2024, etcetera. There are many ways to define the “Thanksgiving holiday”. One example is that it will begin on Wednesday after school through Sunday at 6 p.m. The other parent will have that time with the children in “odd-numbered years”, 2023, 2025, etc. There may be times where, for various reasons, the parents may deviate from the written schedule and verbally agree to switch a year. Unfortunately, the next year, each party may have a different recollection as to what was agreed and this often is a reason that parents end up back in court, after the divorce. To avoid that, we strongly urge you to consult with a divorce lawyer should there be any reason to be concerned about changing the schedule on a “handshake”. While a written acknowledgement of such changes may be useful in court, and is certainly recommended practice, a court will not be bound by such an informal agreement. As such, we urge you to contact a divorce lawyer if there is any likelihood of further court proceedings.
What if You and Your Ex Can’t Agree on the Holiday Schedule?
If you and your ex can’t come to an agreement over a parenting plan for the holidays, you should consider reaching out to your family law attorney. The right attorney can come up with solutions you haven’t yet considered and can also provide a reminder that your children’s best interests should be prioritized over both of yours. Being flexible is necessary in these kinds of situations.
Joseph Law Group, P.C.
If you’re experiencing difficulties with child custody or any such issues related to divorce in Long Island, the very experienced attorneys at Joseph Law Group, P.C. can help. Please give us a call at 516-542-2000 to book a consultation.