While the holiday season is lauded as the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays can also have a dark side. From stress and grief to issues with your co-parent concerning child custody or visitation matters, the holidays can be more challenging than joyous. Below, we will discuss common holiday child custody issues as well as ways to avoid or deal with them.
Holiday-Related Child Custody Issues
Any number of issues can arise during the holidays, including but not limited to:
- Disagreements concerning holiday travels. If either party learns that the other has plans to go on a holiday trip, they may want to fight to stop the trip or have concerns about whether they can them on a holiday trip without their permission. Parenting plans should include terms concerning travel; however, disagreements can arise regardless of the parenting plan terms.
- Issues with pick-ups or drop-offs. Parents may have issues with transportation or may be late for pick-ups or drop-offs, which can lead to disagreements.
- Refusal to allow parenting time. Parents may withhold parenting time from their co-parents if they want to spend the holiday with their child and disagree with their holiday schedule or wish to punish the other parent for missed child support payments or other actions.
- Missing visitation time. Parents may not show up for or adhere to the visitation schedule, which can be frustrating for the other party and children.
- Refusal to return children after visitation. While failing to return a child after scheduled visitation can lead to serious legal consequences, a parent may refuse to return their child for various reasons.
Tips for Dealing with Holiday Child Custody Concerns
Here are a few tips that can help you avoid or handle holiday-related child custody/visitation issues.
- Review your custody agreement. In our previous blog, “Custody During the Holidays,” we discussed the details of the holiday schedule parents must include in their proposed parenting plan; this plan must be filed with their child custody petition and outlines how the holidays will be divided between parents. To avoid disagreements concerning pick-ups and drop-offs, review this agreement. The terms outlined in your custodial agreement can also help determine whether a parent can take your children on a holiday trip. You should have included a time and location for exchanges. If you do not have a court-ordered agreement with the other party, you should consult with an experienced child custody attorney and consider filing an initial petition. It can be hard to enforce your parenting time agreement without an agreement.
- Do not deviate from the terms of your agreement. If you violate the terms of your child custody agreement, including the holiday schedule, you can face serious legal consequences. Withholding child custody or visitation may seem like a good way to force the other party to pay support or make a point; however, you can discuss your concerns with a lawyer and get help with the enforcement or other issues without risking yourself.
- Use co-parenting apps for communication. Arguments and disagreements can arise if you have a hostile relationship and try to communicate in person. Many co-parenting apps can help you craft a message with consideration to tone and word choice, which can help you avoid “blow-ups.” Some co-parenting apps can also connect you with a mediator who can help guide a conversation if you are having a disagreement.
- Set realistic expectations. While it can be great to have a clear holiday schedule and plan, you should also acknowledge and accept that things will come up and issues will present themselves. Accepting that the holidays will not only look different but also that you need to be flexible and plan for last-minute changes or issues can help you better address the problems that arise.
- Talk with an attorney before making any decisions. If you have worries or concerns, are considering withholding visitation/parenting time, or are considering not returning your child(ren) after visitation, you should consult with an attorney. Withholding parenting time and failing to adhere to visitation terms can have serious legal consequences, and an attorney can advise you of other options to address the concerns that may cause these issues. For instance, if you are considering withholding parenting time because of missed child support payments, an attorney can outline potential enforcement options.
Need Legal Help? Contact Our Firm Today!
The holiday season can be stressful enough without having to deal with child custody issues. If you are wondering whether you can take legal action to modify your child custody agreement or address the issues you have, contact Kallen Law Firm, LLC.
Backed by over four and a half decades of legal experience, our attorneys can listen to your concerns and offer you personalized counsel concerning your next steps. We are equipped to handle post-judgment modifications and appeals. If you do not have a legally binding child custody agreement, our firm can also help you file an initial petition.
Learn more about how we can help you by calling (314) 441-7793 or completing our online contact form.