November is well underway, and with Thanksgiving approaching, it is time to take a proactive look forward to the upcoming holiday season. Many families have custody and visitation Orders that include designations regarding where children will spend each of the coming holidays. It is a good idea to take out your final Judgment of Dissolution or current custody and visitation Order, if it is not part of a Judgment or has been revised since your Judgment was entered, and review it to re-familiarize yourself with the holiday schedule for the next four months. This will allow you to properly plan for the holidays and to deal with any anticipated issues before they arise. Taking care of this well ahead of time will reduce stress and conflict and if necessary, allow enough time to bring a specific issue before the Court if necessary.
When re-familiarizing yourself with your holiday schedule, you should look at the following:
1. Note all of the upcoming holidays that your family celebrates and make sure that each holiday is addressed in your Judgment or Order.
2. What, if any, travel plans does your family have? If so, what type of travel information do you need to provide the other parent regarding your travels and by when?
3. Do any of the plans that your family has for the holiday season conflict with the Judgment or Order?
4. Are there any holidays for which there are no Orders or pursuant to which your Judgment or Order designates that you and the other parent will work out an Order?
5. What information do you need to communicate to the other parent in order to finalize the holiday schedule and/or work out any issues that you see now?
After reviewing your Judgment or current custody and visitation Orders, you should make a list of all issues that need to be addressed. If you are represented by counsel or wish to contact an attorney regarding any issues, you should have your list ready when you speak to them along with any proposed communication to the other parent suggesting solutions for dealing with scheduling issues.
All communication with the other parent on any issue, including custody and visitation, should be succinct, professional, and non-provocative. It should address only the issues at hand and should avoid touching on any other unrelated subject, issue, or idea. Finally, it should always be devoid of accusation, name-calling, recollection of past wrongs, arguments, difficulties and the like.
Families with children already have a lot going on during the holidays. Taking the time to deal with your holiday schedule now will save you stress, helping you to avoid the possibility of trying to get into court at the last minute in the middle of an already stressful holiday season.