Goals for the rest of December and early January should include some level of peace and tranquility during Christmas and holiday visitation, so Southlake families can get along and make lasting memories. Children grow up quickly and before we know it, they are off to lead their own lives. As parents, we have a limited number of Christmas and holiday seasons with our kids to take family photos, share stories, and experiences, and appreciate one another. Even during the acrimonious time of divorce and child custody suits, we must find a way to get along and for a while, put on a smile and enjoy the joys of the season.
Being proactive is important and so is communicating well with co-parents. Know what your court order says about holiday possession and where the kids are supposed to be. If you know of a conflict, say something early to figure out a solution to avoid disagreements. Kids will be getting out of school with early dismissals and more options to juggle parenting time. When it’s necessary and there is no other agreement among co-parents, refer to the Standard Possession Order (SPO) which is the basis of your custody and parenting plans.
Sometimes we find the plans that used to work just fine are no longer workable for everyone involved and that is a normal thing that happens as families grow. At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team, work with families who need to modify or enforce their existing court orders, much of which can be done through agreements or contested hearings and trials if necessary. Remember to always put the best interests of children first and foremost. They only have one shot at growing up with a happy childhood.
Please follow our “Top 5 Tips” and be ready to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season with your family and friends, making loving memories. If anything goes wrong, take good notes!
Court orders regarding Christmas custody usually follow the standard holiday visitation used in the widely used Standard Possession Order, giving parents alternating major holidays. There are also custom parenting plans that follow some of the standard order and have additional custom arrangements for parenting time, including Christmas visitation. These custom orders often address special concerns such as international travel and any conditions of travel and with whom the children will be spending the holidays.
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For example, a custom court order and parenting plan might include language thatsays no significant others shall attend holiday events without the express written consent of the other parent. And while some co-parents use specific parentingplans, others just wing it and fall back on their court-ordered custody plansonly when necessary, or when there is a conflict. Conflicts often arise whenthings have been going smoothly and one of the parties introduces new peopleinto the mix, and that often stirs up issues and drama. How we deal with surprisescan set the tone for future situations.
Co-parents using an SPO for Christmas custody should be prepared for the kids to go with the non-custodial parents this year because 2022 is an even-numbered year with Christmas possession beginning at 6 p.m. the day school is dismissed for Christmas vacation, and visitation continues through the Christmas holiday until Noon, on December 28, 2022.
On even years when the parent with possession and access has the kids over Christmas, the primary parent should have had the kids on Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, when following the SPO. If there is some sort of hiccup in scheduling and planning busy schedules, do not delay in asking the other parent or any others involved to adjust schedules and plans before things get underway. Be nice and trade a day or two here or there to accommodate if possible.
If this paragraph applies to you, please open a new browser tab, and google when your kids’ schools are dismissing them early. In Texas, early dismissal happens the week before Christmas break and the kids only go for half days. Here, in the Southlake area Carroll ISD Christmas early dismissal days are December 16and 17. Some schools only dismiss early on the Thursday and Friday before Christmas break, while others dismiss early on additional days, like Denton ISD where the kids are out early December 13-16.
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Is early release from school going to be a problem for picking up the kids, arranging childcare if necessary, or adjusting your work schedule? We are all busy this time of year but the sooner we catch these schedule conflicts the better we can adjust and make a deal to get everyone where they need to be to enjoy Christmas and the holidays without animosity because someone is fighting over parenting time, pick-ups, and drop-offs.
Is it worth calling your lawyer and going to court? It might be. If you need court intervention, now is the time or your judge may be unavailable and unimpressed by the late objection to holiday visitation plans. If for some reason you anticipate a problem, or the co-parenting situation feels stressed, make good notes of communication, and be prepared to play your best hand if necessary.
Common disruptions to plans include new family members and those who are scarcely available due to travel, age, and situation. If this might be the last year grandmother can fly to Texas for Christmas from out of state, and everyone is going to be there for a related family celebration like an engagement or wedding, it might be worth a contested court hearing to make it happen. Concerns for international travel, health, and medical safety are also frequent reasons parents seek court intervention over the holidays.
If you have reduced bandwidth for bad behavior and drama, and things are beginning to boil, the Barrows Firm can help get things simmered down to avoid a full holiday meltdown. Being reasonable is something expected in reasonable situations. What is reasonable might be subjective depending on family dynamics, but know that if a battle ensues, your definition of “reasonable” is subject to holiday scrutiny.
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Make it nice for the children and don’t let them see you stress or fight with the other parent. Keep your cool and be a good Mr. or Mrs. Santa and keep that Christmas smile, especially around your kids, even if you think you are going to spin off the planet, because just before you know it, New Year's Day will be here, and 2023 will surely entertain us with new reasons we can joke about turning the clock back. Again, be nice and always consider the best interests of children first and foremost because they will look back on their childhood holidays for the rest of their lives, and you are responsible for making these holidays memorable, hopefully in the best ways possible.