It's the most wonderful time of the year, or so they say. However, as we all know, often even in the most functional families, the holiday season causes tension. In the case of newly separated parents in Pennsylvania and around the country, the holidays can lead to increased conflict and hurt feelings. Parents will often selfishly attempt to withhold custody from the other parent during the holidays to get back at the other parent without thinking about the fact that their focus should be on what is best for their children, especially during the holidays. Although most final court orders will cover how the holidays are divided between the parties, many interim court orders do not. You might be surprised how many emergency motions are presented before judges in Allegheny County and across the state seeking some kind of custody for the holidays. This is why at our office, we encourage our clients to think about holiday custody in advance and even to make their own arrangements regarding custody. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when considering holiday custody arrangements:
1. Fair is fair: when you were an intact family, both parents were able to spend as much time with the children as they wanted and spend all their special days with them. However, this is not always going to be the case now. Work together to decide what is important and divide it fairly between both parents. Often we suggest the parents consider alternating holidays (one gets Thanksgiving and one gets Christmas) or they divide the holidays based on family traditions (if one parent's family celebrates Christmas Eve and one family celebrates Christmas Day, then each parent gets that specific time)
2. Keep family traditions in mind: It's much easier to orchestrate the holidays if you're ex celebrates Chanukah and you Christmas. However, even when parties are the same religion sometimes certian traditions mean more to one parent than the other. If one parent celebrates a holiday that the other does not, it may be easy to come up with a compromise by giving the parent who is celebrating an extra day of custody.
3. The parent who usually gets less time will often get more: Remeber that the holidays often coincide with a school break. This means that if one parent lives far away or has significantly less time with the children, they will often get the bulk of the holiday break. This is often a sacrifice that parents who relocate with their children are not prepared for. It's possible that the custodial parent will have custody from the last day of school until December 24, and that the non-custodial parent will get the rest of the holiday vacation. It's good to keep that in mind when you're thinking about making holiday arrangments.
If you have any more questions or concerns about holiday custody scheudles, contact our new Canonsburg (Southpointe) office today!