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Child Custody at the Holidays

With the 2020 holidays rapidly approaching, newly separated and divorced parents may be experiencing increased stress over when and how to deal with spending the holidays sharing their children.

The first thing to remember is that if you have a child custody order entered by the court, you must follow the court’s orders for holiday visitation. Time often tends to get away from us when we are spending time with our children and families. If your court order says that a custodial exchange shall occur at a specific place or time, ensure that you are mindful of being prompt. Failing to follow the judge’s orders, especially if your relationship with your former partner is contentious can subject you to being in contempt of court and payment of the other parent’s attorney fees.

The only way you may not have to follow a court-ordered schedule is if the child custody order contains language that allows the parents to make mutually agreed-upon schedule changes. The best advice, if the order permits the parties to make changes, is to keep proof of the agreement to deviate from the custody order in writing by either email or text message. Remember that once you agree to the change in the schedule, you should abide by those changes just like the change was in the court order.

Suppose you are recently separated, and there is no order for child custody entered by a court. In that case, the other parent has equal rights to physical possession of the children of the marriage, and either parent can change any agreed-upon arrangements whenever they choose. Without a court order in place, you may not be able to have the children returned to your custody, even if you call the police. This means that your former partner could take your children during what you think is a holiday visit and not return them to your care without requiring you to file an action for custody with the court.

If you are worried about issues of visitation during the holidays and you do not have a custody order entered by the court, an experienced family law attorney can help you make the proper decisions to help ease your fears and possibly reduce some of the stress around the holiday season.