How to Prevent Holiday Visitation Problems
A vast majority of dissolution of marriage cases are settled by way of a marital settlement agreement. This agreement should contain the complete understanding of both parties so that little is left to interpretation in the future. Most family law attorneys will tell you that a large percentage of their practice is devoted to post judgment issues, meaning issues that arise after the husband and wife are actually divorced. This is especially true of issues concerning the minor children. It is often said that a couple is never actually divorced as long as they have minor children. Issues concerning the children seem to cause the most problems after the divorce is finalized. The most common of these post judgment matters relate to visitation. This is especially true during the upcoming holiday season.
Many of my clients request that their Marital Settlement Agreement simply state that the visitation between the parents be stated as “reasonable” or “liberal” instead of incorporating a complete schedule. I almost always attempt to discourage such language because it will ultimately lead to conflict down the road. What one parent believes is liberal or reasonable may be different than the other parent’s interpretation. As previously stated these issues often “heat up” as the holidays approach. Often parents wish to take the children out of town to visit family. This will prevent the other parent from spending his/her time with the children. Ultimately it is the children who suffer as the conflict intensifies. So how can this be prevented?
Make sure to be as specific as you can concerning visitation. Determine in advance how you wish to divide the holidays. Always consider the children’s best interests and not your own. The holidays are a special time for all children and they want to share it with both parents. Don’t use them as pawns in disputes over other issues.
Court should always be a last resort. Judges don’t want to be your children’s parent, so try and work it out if you can. I have always found that communication can settle almost all issues. In addition, emergency hearings are difficult to arrange during the holiday time. However, if all else fails the courts can be used to enforce existing schedules as previously agreed to.
Remember, your children did not ask to be put in the middle of your disputes. Do your best to put aside your differences and make it a joyous holiday time for everyone. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!