As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in divorce and family law matters here in Arizona, I have noticed that the holidays tend to give rise to heated disagreements as both parents seek to spend quality time with the children. A few important points may help both parents to keep the peace during this time of peace and joy.
First, make certain that the court order or written agreement is very specific about what time each parent will have during the holidays. This should include specific definitions as to what is included with Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. There is no right or wrong answer, so long as the agreement or order is specific. I have had some parents who prefer to divide the entire winter school break into two halves, and in odd years Parent A gets the first half and Parent B gets the second half, and in even years they switch. This approach has the advantage of simplicity and the long blocks of time with each parent allow either parent to plan out of town travel on his or her week. I have had other parents who want to ensure that each parent has time on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day. While this adds complication and logistical concerns to have the children exchanged more often, each parent is able to spend time each day with the Children.
Second, so long as there is a detailed agreement or court order in place, the parties can work to make a more specific agreement each year. It is important to remember that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, both parents must follow the detailed and specific agreement or court order (which is why it is so important that it be detailed and specific). However, so long as both parents are able to reach an agreement, parents are encouraged to follow such agreement. This has the added advantage of being based upon current circumstances and factors that could not have possibly been known years ago when the court order or agreement was entered into. Any agreements to deviate from the order or agreement should be put in writing to avoid later misunderstandings about what the new agreement entailed.
Third, take a step back, and attempt to look at this from the children’s perspective and the other parent’s perspective. Often disagreements around Christmas time arise when both sides of the family have important family get-togethers which occur on the same evening or the same day. Generally the children would like to be able to spend some time with each parent. Be willing to accommodate the other parent’s side of the family to benefit your children. Moreover, a simple gesture of allowing the other parent some additional time for a family get-together may be reciprocated later with a similar gesture in return. The children are then the true winners.
Finally, remember that generally no-one wins when there are disagreements over holiday time (except the lawyers). As these disagreements generally pop up at the last minute, it is difficult to get these resolved in time by a Judge as any hearing may not be scheduled until January when the emergency has passed. The children will not appreciate being the pawns in a parental disagreement, nor will they appreciate missing a family-event because their parents do not get along. Such disagreements are also costly and money that could have been used in the spirit of giving must be paid towards attorney fees and litigation costs at a time of year when money is often tight.
If you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other family law case, and if you have determined that you need experienced legal representation, please call 800-899-2730 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at www.yourarizonadivorcelawyer.com