Figuring out child custody arrangements is hardly a walk in the park, but during the holidays emotions are already running high.
There are ways to stop disputes before they start, but part of it is also being prepared for when things will be most difficult. The holiday season can be complicated and there are certain issues that are more likely to come up in the next few weeks.
Keep in mind that the goal is for your kids to have a good holiday, and that might mean you don't get to spend every second with them. But it can be easier on you too if you are prepared for what issues may come up.
The issues often include:
Travel. This holiday season, many people will be driving or flying to see family. And you want your kids to see their grandparents and aunts and uncles too. But before you take them out of state, check your custody agreement. Many have provisions prohibiting out-of-state (or even out-of-county) travel without telling the other parent. This is one case in which you generally have to ask permission first; breaking the rules could lead to adverse consequences in court.
Sharing time. Everyone wants some holiday time with your kids, both parents and grandparents. Sometimes a custody arrangement dictates what parts of the holiday get spent with whom and which years it alternates, but some just say "on alternating years." When you're making arrangements, make sure they're in writing so it's clear where your children are supposed to be, and when they're supposed to be there. For example, your email records can be used to show where the kids spent their last holiday in order to prove that this one is yours.
Disputed gifts. Parents living in two separate homes means two opportunities to get gifts that will drive the other parent nuts. Yes it's tempting to buy gifts for your kids that you know will upset your ex, but think twice before doing that. If your kid brings that gift to the other parent's house, it could cause some consternation and may even get your child in trouble. If it's something you think is safe and appropriate then feel free to buy it, but maybe make a deal that it only stays at your house.
Do you have more questions about dealing with holiday child custody issues? You can contact an experienced child custody lawyer near you, or post a question to the FindLaw Answers Child Custody and Support Forum where our community of legal commentators can share their opinions and expertise.