As the holidays quickly approach, many of us are thinking about different ways we can make the season memorable for our families. As calendars fill up with different activities and holiday parties, planning becomes important to ensure that the children are with you on the days that you intend to celebrate. However, what happens when the holiday visitation schedule does not allow for you and your family to celebrate in a meaningful way? What happens when a co-parent does not follow the Parenting Plan? In this blog, our firm shares potential visitation issues that could occur during the holidays and possible solutions, so your family can enjoy the season to the fullest.
The Role of a Parenting Plan in Holiday Visitation
When making holiday plans, the first step should be to refer back to your Parenting Plan, as it typically allocates which holiday each parent has with the children. If there is confusion on whether you have a certain day based on how the Parenting Plan is written, or there is not language that addresses a specific holiday, that is a great opportunity to work with your co-parent to see if an agreement can be reached. This can be done through informal dialogue or mediation. If you want an agreed upon change to become an enforceable change, the Parenting Plan will have to be modified and approved by the Court. An attorney can assist you in this process—a process that can be done amicably.
If you and your co-parent are unable to reach an agreement, or if a conversation is going to result in a high-conflict dynamic, an attorney can also communicate on your behalf and help you consider whether a modification of the Parenting Plan is necessary to address the holiday issues facing your family.
In determining a path forward, it is important to consider if the scheduling issue is something that has occurred regularly or if it is an isolated issue. For example, if every year, you and your co-parent disagree on who has the children for Christmas Eve vs. Christmas day and what time exchanges are to occur, there is likely an insufficiency in your Parenting Plan language that needs to be fixed. An attorney can assist in drafting language better suited to ensure that your children have a memorable holiday experience that does not include stress about where they will be on any given day. However, if there is a special one-time event that falls on a day that isn’t typically yours, perhaps the solution can be found by renegotiating a one-time change. If the Parenting Plan clearly allocates the dates and times for holiday parenting time, but your co-parent refuses to comply, you may consider consultation with an attorney to determine your options to enforce.
How Mediation Can Support Your Holiday Schedule
Mediation with a neutral third party can be a great preliminary step in opening up a dialogue with your co-parent to address these holiday scheduling issues. While a mediator cannot give either party legal advice, they can be a great resource to help facilitate communication and a resolution. Having an experienced attorney with you at mediation ensures that you understand your rights and that any agreement reached during this process is properly documented and filed with the court for approval so that next year, the issue does not persist.
While mediation does not always result in resolution, it is a good faith effort to resolve the issue without litigation. Should litigation be required to address holiday scheduling issues, you may want to consult an attorney who can help you determine the best path forward, and whether there are additional issues that should be brought to the court’s attention. For example, are there issues with regular parenting time that should be addressed simultaneously? Should child support be re-evaluated? Are there holidays that were not included initially, but should be now?
Dealing with the holidays can be stressful, and made even more stressful when the existing holiday schedule does not work for your family. An attorney is available to review existing Parenting Plans and help you find a course that alleviates future holiday parenting time challenges.
To speak with one of our experienced lawyers about your case, contact our firm today by calling us at (720) 463-2232.