Visitation and custody matters are one of the most hotly contested issues in many divorces. Where will the child primarily live? Who will have visitation and for how long?
In some cases, parents are able to amicable work out such arrangements by creating their own agreements. In other situations, they need to get a court involved to establish a solid custody and visitation schedule.
However, regardless of whether it’s a parent-created schedule or court ordered, there are always unexpected issues that come up – particularly around the holidays.
Most agreements will stipulate who has the kids over Thanksgiving and, depending on the specific family dynamic or religious preferences, holidays like Halloween, Christmas or Rosh Hashanah. Many parents opt to simply trade on-and-off each holiday. One year, dad will have the kids for Thanksgiving and the mom will have the kids over another holiday. Then, the next year they swap.
But contingencies do happen. Something might come up that throws a wrench in the mix.
Let’s say it’s early October and for the upcoming Christmas holiday, the kids will be with dad. It’s already been arranged since mom spent the holiday with the children last season.
However, thanks to the generosity of grandma and grandpa, mom and the kids have all been invited to go on an all-expense paid cruise over Christmas. But the kids are expected to spend the holiday with dad. Now what?
When unexpected situations like this arise, there are a few options parents can pursue. However, which one will work or not work will depend on how amicable the relationship is between the parents and the particular situation.
Ask to modify the original schedule
If the parties are generally on amicable terms, mom could speak to dad about the situation and ask if he would be willing to allow the kids to spend Christmas with her and, in turn, dad could see the kids over the New Year’s holiday or a more extended summer break.
Seeking outside help
If the parents are not on amicable speaking terms, a family law attorney may need to get involved. After all, the cruise is for the benefit of the children. After careful negotiations with the help of an outside neutral party, dad may accept the new arrangement.
What’s important is that the parties look at the best interests of the children – and also get the modified agreement in writing.