Now is the time to think about and plan for holiday schedules involving children with divorced or divorcing parents. If a parent thinks that there will be some conflict about where the children will spend the holiday, the parent should address this issue now and not wait till later.
Many questions arise during the holiday season as to the rights of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent as they pertain to visitation with the minor children. It is a time of additional stress for the parents and the children, as the non-custodial parent wants more time with the children and the custodial parent thinks that the children are spending too much time with the non-custodial parent.
To avoid this situation, first consult and review the Divorce Judgment. The Divorce Judgment should explain the rights of the parties during the holiday season. The judgment can be a simple as "reasonable visitation by agreement of the parties" or as specific as defining each holiday visitation as Thanksgiving Day from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. in even numbered years and 5 P.M. to 10 P.M. in odd numbered years. Usually the more detailed the visitation schedule, the less opportunity there is for confusion or ambiguity among the parties.
If the Judgment is silent on visitation or is confusing or ambiguous, the parties should seek the services of the court mediator. In conciliation court the parties can meet with a trained professional who can assist the parties in developing a visitation schedule for the holiday season. Conciliation Court is very busy and it is recommended to make an appointment as soon as possible.
There are times when the parties cannot reach an agreement. Then the parties can ask a judge to make a decision. The process to obtain the Court's assistance in visitation is called An Order To Show Cause. It may take 4 -6 weeks to schedule a court hearing. Therefore, if a party believes that there may be conflict between the parties, it is better to schedule a court hearing sooner rather than later.
Finally, there are some times when at the last moment one party will not abide by the Divorce Judgment. Then the parties can seek an emergency hearing before a judge.