Holidays are Not a Divorce Court Emergency
The holidays should be a joyful time of year — they can also be stressful for divorced families. With so many celebrations and family gatherings in November and December, parents understandably want to spend more time with their children.
Many parents might think the only way they can modify their holiday parenting plan is through the court. However, a divorce court will rarely consider a parenting time pleading filed during the holiday season to be an emergency, and it could even take weeks before your case is heard. Before you move forward with filing a custody modification in court, there are a few things you should consider first to ensure you and your children enjoy a happy, healthy (and stress-free) holiday season.
Review Your Parenting Plan Early
It's a good idea to periodically review any established parenting plan to make sure it is still relevant to your family situation. If holiday parenting time isn't specified in your agreement or it needs to be updated, you and your co-parent can enter into a Holiday Parenting Time Agreement. It's important to keep in mind that it's better to request a modification during the year rather than try to make any changes to an existing parenting plan during the holidays.
Some options you might consider for holiday scheduling are dividing the day or alternating years. No matter what compromise you reach with your co-parent, it's essential to make sure your plans are clear in the Holiday Parenting Time Agreement. You should include the specific times the children will be spending with each parent, transportation arrangements, activities, and any other important details to ensure your children's best interests are met.
Use Mediation or Collaborative Law to Resolve Holiday Scheduling Conflicts
It's important to remember that flexibility is key to a successful co-parenting relationship. However, even if your parenting plan includes holiday scheduling, conflicts can still arise. If divorced spouses cannot work out any disagreements, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative law can help resolve disputes quickly, cost-effectively, and out of court.
Mediation sessions can allow you to explore possible options, negotiate in a neutral setting, and develop a highly detailed Holiday Parenting Time Agreement that is fully enforceable. Rather than go through the court, a trained mediator can help divorced spouses reach a compromise and maintain an amicable relationship year-round.
Make New Traditions
There will likely be many changes to how the holidays are celebrated after your divorce is finalized. No matter what, it's essential to keep the best interests of your children in mind. Making new traditions can help strengthen your relationship with your children and help ensure that they have positive memories associated with the holiday season.
FaceTime can be a great way for children to spend time with each parent during the holidays. Other ideas to make sure the holidays are special for the children can include taking the children to go holiday shopping for the other parent, helping them make a homemade gift, attending a holiday music concert or play, or volunteering. Your new traditions don't have to be elaborate or expensive. Remember, enjoying the season with your children and spending quality time with them is what's most important.
Learn How Birt Law Can Help
Erin Birt is an experienced DuPage divorce attorney and family law mediator who can help you create an enforceable Holiday Parenting Time Agreement that can give you and your children certainty during the holiday season and help resolve conflict. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with your holiday visitation and parenting time agreement.