Parenting time disagreements can happen any time, but unfortunately they seem to occur more over the yearend holiday season. While very few people plan to file for divorce between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this month ends up being busy with various disputes involving clients and former clients as well as prospective clients.
The first secret to reducing disagreements regarding parenting time and holiday schedules is to ensure that the parties have a solid and detailed written agreement or parenting time order. I generally advise clients to ensure that a specific date and time is listed for drop-offs and exchanges.
Clearly, the schedule for holidays will change from year to year, and as the children grow and get older, their bedtimes may change and the events that they wish to participate in may change. Because of this, the second secret to reducing disagreements involves both parents being flexible. If the other parent has a reasonable request to deviate an hour or two from the written schedule, it may be beneficial to the children to agree to this accommodation. It also may be appropriate to exchange similar blocks of time for other blocks. For example, one parent may agree to exchange a day over Christmas for a child’s birthday or for a three day weekend or other holiday coming up later. The flexibility of both parents will generally be reciprocated back and forth reducing friction and litigation. If one parent always insists upon adhering to the schedule when it benefits that parent, they can usually expect a reciprocal insistence upon the schedule by the other parent. Treat the other parent as you hope to be treated when the roles are reversed.
A third secret, which is very important, is to document any agreements to change or deviate from the written agreement or court order. Too often, the parties reach an agreement to exchange one block of time for another block of time, but after one parent receives the additional time there is a disagreement over the reciprocal block of time. If this agreement is detailed in writing, the misunderstanding will be much easier to correct. Remember, an oral agreement is not worth the paper it is written upon.
The two parents have absolute right to overrule and outvote any parenting time order or agreement. So long as both parents are in agreement, they may share holidays and parenting time however they determine and agree to proceed. Remember, however, that in the event of a tie or disagreement, return to the written agreement or court order and follow the agreement or court order. This is an enforceable document and failure to comply (without an agreement with the other parent) except to protect the safety of the children can be a criminal violation and can cause the Court to impose sanctions and penalties upon the non-compliant parent.
Have a safe, enjoyable, and happy Christmas and holiday season.
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.