5 Tips for Navigating Child Custody During School Breaks
“Timesharing” your children after a divorce can get dicey during school breaks and holidays. Work schedules shift, the kids are at home, and family events seem to occur every weekend (or more). Navigating child custody and visitation during this time can be challenging — here are 5 tips to help you get a handle on it.
#1. Start the Conversation About Child Custody and Visitation Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to start discussing child custody arrangements and visitation schedules over the holidays. Instead, start the conversation about potential plans early — at least a few weeks before the break. This leaves plenty of room for negotiation and divorce mediation, if necessary. If you suspect that your ex-spouse will be contentious about any changes in the plans, you may want to bring up the conversation even earlier.
Even if you and your ex-spouse end up making no changes to your current custody arrangements for the upcoming holidays and school breaks, it’s a good idea to recap together what the existing schedule is to make sure you’re both on the same page.
#2. Consult Your Court Order
Before you go making any changes to your child custody schedules for the holidays, it’s critical to consult your court order. You must abide by what the order says for holidays; for example, if last year was your year for Christmas day, this year is likely yours for Christmas Eve. Even if you have family coming from overseas or another very special event, you cannot legally change visitation arrangements without prior court approval or an agreement with your ex-spouse. If you change plans without consent, your ex could have you charged with parental kidnapping.
3. Put Your Plan in Writing
If you and your ex-spouse do decide to temporarily change child visitation arrangements for a school break or holiday, it’s critical to get it in writing. Even if your ex says they’re in agreement, they can easily retract the statement later. If you’re being charged with parental kidnapping, you have nothing to show if your agreement was only verbal. With a written agreement, you can provide documentation that your ex-spouse was aware of and agreed to the change in the parenting schedule, in which case you have a better chance that the charges against you are likely to be dropped.
#4. Use a Parenting App
There seems to be a smartphone app for just about everything, including child visitation. Co-parenting apps have a number of benefits that can make it easier to communicate with your ex-spouse about schedules, upcoming events, and more. Look for a co-parenting app that has:
A. A collaborative calendar. Keep track of holidays, birthdays, sports events, recitals, and appointments in a place that both parents can easily access. This eliminates common excuses like, “I didn’t know about band practice this weekend” or “I thought you were taking the kids to the doctor on your week, not mine.”
B. Time logging capabilities. Some apps allow you and your ex-spouse to “check-in” or “log in” when you pick up your child, and “log off” or “check out” when you transfer custody to the other parent. This is extremely helpful to identify perpetually late parents.
C. Real-time communication that can’t be edited. This is a cornerstone — make sure your app time stamps all messages between you and your ex-spouse and does not allow messages to be edited or altered after they are posted. These records can be pulled and provided to a New York court if necessary.
#5. Consult an Experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyer & Family Law Attorney
Matters of child custody and visitation can be difficult, and it’s important to have the support of an experienced divorce lawyer and family law attorney on your side. Your attorney can help you learn about and assert your legal rights, and take action to protect the welfare and wellbeing of your child. At our Long Island family and divorce law firm, we know how exhausting it can be to deal with timesharing and co-parenting during frantic holidays and draining school breaks. Let us help you make sure your plan of action is in your family’s best interests and protects your legal rights.
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