So you survived the Holidays…Or at least you successfully managed to make it through them. Either way, this time of year is often a mixed bag of emotions. It is difficult enough dealing with these emotions in the best of times but dealing with them when a family has been fractured can make them exponentially worse.
Time-sharing during the Holiday season is one of the most difficult times of the year for family law attorneys and their clients. What seems to be simple, rarely is, and the difficulty in managing these short few weeks can take its toll on everyone involved. It begs the question what could I do differently to make this work next year and every following year? This is a question that has no easy answer.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard law enforcement got involved to assist in facilitating time-sharing between parents, especially during the Holiday season. While this is sometimes necessary it always troubles me to hear that children are being held by one parent while the other parent is arriving with the assistance of armed personnel to facilitate what should be a simple exchange. It never leaves the memory of the children to watch as their parents argue, make threats and ultimately have to resort to law enforcement assistance to transfer children from one location to another. As I stated before this is not intended to defer parents from seeking law enforcement assistance when the situation calls for it. This blog is intended to offer some guidance when dealing with these situations with hopes that the need for law enforcement intervention will not be necessary and the threat of its use will only be used when the situation rises to the level that makes law enforcement involvement absolutely necessary.
Read your parenting plan. Of course, this recommendation is based on the fact that a parenting plan exists. If one does not then work to establish one and in the interim resolve temporary matters with Joint Stipulations that are filed with the Court and ratified and approved by the Judge. If neither of these exist then your first goal is to establish a Parenting Plan or Joint Stipulation regarding Temporary Time-sharing so there is a blue print for you and the other parent to follow.
Presuming that a Parenting Plan exists, read it and familiarize yourself with it. I even encourage parents to keep at least one hard copy with them at all times. A certified hard copy and an electronic copy is preferred. Parents waste hours of time arguing about specific terms of a Parenting Plan when neither of them are actually looking at the plan itself. Once they do the conflict is generally resolved immediately. Absent written agreement or Court Order to the contrary, whatever is articulated in the Parenting Plan will generally control. Too often parties continue to argue and then one party calls to involve law enforcement. Officers arrive and require the parents to do what the Parenting Plan prescribes. Law enforcement has the authority to enforce the court order; however, more often than not they fail to get involved and there is no resolution, just upset and scared children. As you can see all of this could have been avoided had the parents simply reviewed their own documents. I hate to imagine the impact on the children watching their parents having a dispute with armed law enforcement officers, essentially mediating the dispute, right before their young and impressionable eyes. Avoid these situations and spare you and your family this stress. Also, remember to be reasonable when minor changes to the schedule are requested by the other parent and attempt to resolve them amicably. I assure you that your children will appreciate your efforts. Be a united front, free from division and use your best efforts to be cooperative and effective co-parents.
It is important to be proactive, not reactive. If you require court intervention, a week before the holidays is not enough time, you will likely not get a hearing before the time-sharing conflict and the judges do not find holiday time-sharing an emergency that would warrant an expedited hearing.
If you have experienced any of the situations detailed above please call us so we can assist you in resolving these conflicts before the get out of control. Be diligent and plan accordingly. Work to create a Parenting Plan, work to modify and resolve issues in your current Parenting Plan. Whatever the case may be prepared and proactive. Your priority is to ensure that the 2018 Holiday season will be more peaceful and enjoyable than prior years. Make this your goal. Let us help you achieve this goal.
For more information on Co-parenting and Parenting Plans please contact the law firm of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates.