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

Innovative Legal Solutions

Today, Lagniappe Law Lab and the Louisiana Bar Foundation launched the Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator. It’s the project I’ve been working on for the past year. I’m so excited to see it come to life and to share it with the world.

The Navigator helps connect self-represented litigants and others with legal information tailored to the user’s specific situation and need.

Legal Information Available

The Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator currently services users seeking information in the areas of:

  • Family law (divorce and child custody),
  • Landlord tenant law, and
  • Employment law.

Users who have not yet filed a lawsuit can learn about their potential courses of action. Those who have been served with a petition can figure out the next steps in the case.

Guided Interview

The Navigator narrows user situations from general to more specific through a series of questions. The questions work a lot like a consultation with an in-person lawyer. Once the Navigator narrows the user’s situation to the appropriate endpoint, the user will be connected to legal information and resources.

Curated Experience

There’s a ton of legal information available online. For self-represented litigants, it can be overwhelming. That’s why the Navigator provides curated content for context: the curated experience helps a user understand how to use the legal information.

Increasing Access to Justice

Self-represented litigants can help themselves if they have enough information to understand what to do and how to do it. The Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator bridges the gap between self-represented litigants and online legal content and guides the user to the information they need.

Need legal assistance?

If you need legal assistance beyond what the Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator offers, contact Westbank Family Law today.

Child Custody in a Hurricane

Meagan Lynn Miller

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

What to do if you have to evacuate for a natural disaster

In Louisiana, and the entire Gulf Coast, families and parents must be prepared for hurricanes. While your local news station, the governor, and local officials offer helpful advice for how to prepare your home and stay safe during a storm, what are parents supposed to do about court-ordered child custody schedules? While it may seem overwhelming for parents to manage, for children, stability and normalcy are comforting — even in a natural disaster.

Louisiana Revised Statute 9:335 gives parents specific guidance for how to handle court-ordered custody during a natural disaster:

“…when either party is required to evacuate this state with a minor child because of an emergency or disaster declared under the provisions of R.S. 29:721 et seq., or declared by federal authority and it becomes impossible for the parties to exercise custody as provided in the judgment, the parties shall engage in continuous communication regarding the safe evacuation of the child, the location of the child during and after the emergency or disaster, and an interim custody plan for the child until the custody provisions of the judgment can be resumed.”

Louisiana Revised Statute 9:335 A. (2) (c)
Emergency or Disaster Declaration

It’s important to note that the law covers situations when an emergency or disaster has been declared by a local, state, or federal authority. If no emergency or disaster has been declared by a government authority, parents are expected to stick to the custody judgment, unless both parents agree otherwise. Parents can always agree to temporarily modify court-ordered custody schedules.

Impossibility

The law covers situations where it “becomes impossible for the parties to exercise custody as provided in the judgment“. Obviously, impossible is a strong word. This means that, if it’s at all possible, parents should do their best to continue the normal custody schedule.

Continuous Communication

When experiencing a natural disaster, any communication can be challenging, and continuous communication might seem impossible. But it is not. If you have physical custody of a child at the time of a natural disaster, use every method of communication available to you to let the other parent know:

  • whether you intend to evacuate or take shelter away from your home;
  • where you intend to evacuate or take shelter;
  • where you and the child are located, if different from where you intended;
  • when and where they can exercise custody, until things get back to normal.

Put simply, parents have to make their best effort to make sure their child is allowed custody or visitation time with the other parent, even in the event of a natural disaster and evacuation.

Does your custody judgment include emergency provisions?

Under Louisiana law, all joint custody agreements should include the above-described emergency provisions. If your current custody judgment does not include these provisions, you might want to contact Westbank Family Law for more information and to discuss whether you could benefit from changing your custody judgment.