The holidays are stressful enough without the added pressure of holiday parenting time disputes. Keeping in mind that both parents want to see the children, you can work with your ex to find the visitation that works best for you whether that’s part of the child custody negotiation, a working relationship with your ex, or moderating through a Parenting Coordinator.
As you’re negotiating child custody, it is important to have a clear parenting plan to (hopefully) avoid disputes about holiday parenting time. No matter how good your relationship is today with your ex, you want to be specific about days and times for those times when it’s not so good (and there will be those times). It isn’t enough to say “Mother shall have child on odd numbered Christmas years and Father shall have child on even numbered years.” Include the time for the holiday. “Christmas day begins at 10pm on December 24th and ends at 10pm on December 25th.” In some cases, parents will stick exactly to the parenting plan making it imperative to have a clear plan right from the start. This will help avoid future disputes.
Keeping the parenting plan in mind, it is also helpful for parents to be flexible when it comes to visitation. That isn’t to say that you give up your time to the other parent or that you only take the children when it is convenient for you. Rather, it means giving equal time for each parent to be with the children. There will be times when you have to make an exception to the parenting plan and that’s okay as long as each parent is taking responsibility and care for the children. Remember, it’s not about you or how much you can’t stand your ex-spouse. It’s about the children seeing their other parent.
If you and your former spouse cannot work out holiday parenting time, consider Rule 74 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure in which judges have to authority to appoint a Parenting Coordinator (PC) to settle disputes between parents. A PC is often a psychologist or experienced family law attorney. While they don’t have authority to recommend or modify child custody agreements, they can deal with smaller issues such as holiday parenting time.
The PC is ideally available to mediate your dispute to help you and your ex-spouse come to a decision that is suitable for you and your children. If a decision cannot be made, the PC can make a recommendation to the court. This would effectively take the decision out of your hands and place it in that of a judge. Ideally, you want to be able to work with the other parent to come to a resolution before heading back to court.
If you’re having trouble negotiating the holidays with the parent of your children, give the team at Stuart and Blackwell a call for a FREE CONSULTATION.