Article written by Diana Isaac
Have you and your ex overlooked a holiday parenting schedule? It’s okay if you have, it happens more often than you think. But, you need to move quickly on this issue and leave time for negotiations about what days or times work best for each parent, who picks the child up, etc.
If you have tried to work out a schedule with your ex, but haven’t been able to find a solution that works for both of you, you may be tempted to bring forward a motion right before the holidays so that you have the opportunity to spend the time that you want with your child. While a court may grant you the holiday access you seek, it should not be your first remedy.
Courts understand that the holidays are special, and that changes to ordinary parenting schedules are temporary and generally don’t have a significant impact on the well-being of the child.
However, our advice to all separated or divorced parents would be to sort out holiday schedules well in advance so that all parties can enjoy the holidays without added stress. We do understand how challenging creating and agreeing on a holiday parenting schedule can be, and when it seems impossible to find a solution with your ex, it is recommended that parents attend a case conference before bringing a motion.
The goal of a case conference is to get you and your partner to agree on your issues (in this case a holiday parenting schedule) without having to bring a motion forward. A judge will facilitate an agreement in the context of a conference.
Case conferences need to be scheduled, and it is a smart idea for each of you to have a family lawyer present. That means you and your partner cannot decide to arrange for one a week before the winter holidays.
Now, let’s say you were not able to come to an agreement through a case conference, or that time has run out and you and your ex are at an impasse.
It is possible to bring a motion.
A motion may be brought because:
- the issue is time-sensitive
- an interim order is required
- parties have attended a case conference and could not come to an agreement
You serve your partner with your court documents for the motion, and they must have an opportunity to respond before a judge makes a decision. Motions do have the potential to create additional animosity between exes, and they can be expensive too. In some instances, if you bring a motion forward and lose, there may be cost consequences.
What happens if there is an existing order for a holiday parenting schedule, but I want to change it
This is quite difficult to do, but it is not impossible. A judge may tell the party looking to make the change that they should have appealed the order when it was originally made. But there are always exceptions.
If, for example, there has been a material change, or if the child has outgrown the original holiday parenting plan, then a judge may agree to change the original order for the holiday schedule.
The Bottom Line
As this article illustrates, the sooner you and your ex start planning your holiday parenting schedule, the better. Waiting until the last minute only creates additional stress (and sometimes, expenses). Moreover, the best solutions are created when you and your ex work collaboratively.