Navigating the Holidays with Court-Ordered Custody

DISCLAIMER: The information presented here is not legal advice. Legal information does not create an attorney-client relationship and is intended only to inform.

How Parents Can Ease the Holiday Stress

Many court orders of custody include holiday schedules. Usually, the holiday schedules take the place of the ordinary custody schedule. But what happens when the custody judgment conflicts with a parent’s holiday plans?

Parents Are Permitted to Make Occasional Adjustments, with Consent

One thing family lawyers wish more parents knew–or remembered– is that they are allowed to compromise with their child’s other parent! If your child’s other parent rarely asks for a change to the schedule and you are willing to make accommodations, you should feel free to do so. Why? Perhaps there will come a time when you also would like to change the schedule and the other parent will remember the time when you were agreeable to their request to change.

The Key Words: Occasional and Consent

There are two potential issues when parents start making change to a custody judgment. One issue is that it may give the Court a reason to change the custody schedule permanently. Another issue might arise if the parents aren’t on the same page about the change. It is important to communicate the agreement to make the change.

First, it is important to know that if parents begin a custom or habit of routinely following a schedule that is different from the custody judgment, either parent may be able to convince the Court to change the custody schedule permanently. Since the law favors a routine schedule for children, once a child gets accustomed to a certain schedule, the court may be more likely to make it part of a formal judgment. However, occasionally changing the schedule is not likely to lead to this kind of permanent custody change.

When you ask the other parent to make a change to the custody schedule, be careful to spell out what you are requesting and what you are offering in return, if anything. Make sure that you use dates and times that you would like to pick up or drop off the child. It may be helpful to offer “makeup” time: a one-for-one exchange of the time you’re asking the other parent to surrender. Other times, it may be that you can get an agreement without the other parent asking for makeup time.

The important thing is to get the agreement in writing (text is fine!) before the day you expect the change to occur. The more advance notice you can provide the other parent the better. This will give them time to make alternative arrangements or adjust their schedule to meet the child’s needs.

The Court Can Award Holiday Custody

If your custody judgment does not include a holiday custody schedule, that’s something you can ask the Court to add! Some families have specific holiday traditions that always happen on a certain day. Other families have more casual plans. If you and the other parent can agree on the best holiday custody schedule for your family, the Court could enter a judgment by consent. Contact us to find out how.

Even if you can’t get an agreement, having a holiday schedule is an ordinary part of custody judgments. If you need one, we can help.

Meagan Lynn Miller

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