The holidays can be an stressful time of the year for everyone: rushing to get “just the right” gifts, hosting houses full of relatives and remembering loved ones who are no longer a part of the celebrations. While a fun time of the year, emotions often run high. And emotions often run even higher for divided families, who are trying to find time to spend with their children yet plan around the schedules of their exes and extended families. Scheduling becomes a nightmare and child custody becomes a battle.
Disputes between couples over who gets the kids on Christmas Day and during the holiday vacation often leads to last minute filing of “emergency” motions. Keep the following in mind:
- Settled custody arrangements and existing visitation or parenting plans are not usually altered simply because you want your children with you on Christmas. Judges expect that, as part of your divorce proceedings, you already negotiated and agreed to holiday custody arrangements. They will stick to those pre-established agreements.
- Family law judges make decisions based on “the best interests of the children.” Just because your ex normally has them on Christmas and you promised the kids an out of town trip that weekend, the judge will not order your ex to hand them over.
- Expect to spend a considerable amount of time at the courthouse. A lot of court employees, judges and attorneys take vacation over the holidays so staffing is often at a minimum. Fewer judges and clerks and increased hearing requests can mean long wait times. What is an “emergency” hearing for you (like filing a last minute plea to establish a holiday visitation schedule) may not seem as urgent for a judge.
If you do need help with a child custody or visitation matter for the holidays, seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling parenting plans and custody agreements.