As we head into the holiday season it’s important for those of us who are either going through or have gone through a divorce to plan ahead to prevent last minute drama which could spoil the season for everyone. Knowing your parenting plan and the rules it creates can help diffuse misunderstanding and guide you in your planning. If you really don’t understand what your plan says, consult your attorney to avoid any confusion.
Being alone during the holidays and not being able to see your kids is never fun. Let’s be honest. As a parent, seeing your kids enjoy the holiday season is really what makes the holidays so great, and no matter how you feel about your ex or soon to be ex-spouse, I can almost guarantee they feel the same way. Keeping this in mind and trying to be flexible and accommodating, within reason, should earn you some points on the other side and make the holidays easier for everyone. If you still can’t agree on how the holiday’s will be shared, then you always have your parenting plan to fall back on.
Everyone who has a court ordered custody agreement should have a parenting plan that defines how much time each parent gets at the holidays. A good plan should define when transfers are meant to take place, and in some cases will even define where it is to take place. It’s very important to understand what your plan says and to try to stick to the rules it creates. The holiday season can be stressful for all of us, but if you add on top of that that you may be going into your first holiday season without seeing your kids every day, you may be compounding the holiday stress levels exponentially. If you let that stress build and consume you then the holidays may be ruined for everyone, including your kids. Make a plan well in advance and make sure your ex knows your intentions. That way if there is a problem you can try to resolve it early and save the holidays.
If you are planning to travel during the holidays, especially if it’s international, it’s even more important to understand your parenting plan. However, it’s also very important to know the laws of where you are going. Some countries now require a birth certificate and a certified letter from the non-traveling parent giving their permission for the travel, in order to gain access to the country. Although we have treaties with most countries requiring them to return children who have been taken abroad without the other parent’s consent, many countries have decided to cover themselves proactively by requiring these additional documents.
Even if you are simply traveling to another state it is important to understand the rules that are imposed by many court orders. Your parenting plan may require you to notify the other parent of your location at all times and to provide a telephone number at those locations. You may be required to provide airline information. Some parenting plans may require you to procure permission from your ex before leaving the state with your child. Knowing in advance and complying with your plan’s rules will make your travel less hectic.
Every plan is likely to be unique to your family. Knowing the terms of your plan is always the best idea. If you know the plan and stay within the guidelines that are provided you will be in a better position to assert your rights and to protect your plans as you head into the holidays. No one wants to get their attorney involved in these types of situations, but you are always better off knowing your legal position before you get into a squabble with your ex. A quick call may prevent a lot of headaches later.
Happy holidays and safe travels to all.