How to Make Sure you get your Christmas Visitation or Holiday visitation with your children.
One of the most magical times of the year for a child’s life in the United States centers around Christmas. Thanks to mass media, the Christmas holiday is more secular than ever. As each year rolls on, the religious meaning of Christmas slips a little further away, except for Bill O’Reilly and his annual “War on Christmas” campaign. Even a rock has a hard time not getting into the Christmas spirit. Why? Because it’s everywhere. And like most parents, my own thoughts of a great Christmas involve seeing my children. And if I can’t see them then I better be with someone special. If you are divorced or have a parenting plan, you know exactly what I mean.
Unfortunately many (ex) spouses like to play games with your holiday visitation. Sadly, is something that keeps us divorce lawyers in business. Why? Because they will gladly screw over their own children while they justify it their mind in order to prevent you from having any job by seeing your kids. I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this issue. I’ve represented people who wanted to screw over their spouse (and their children) and those that have been getting screwed over. I prefer to represent the latter.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and in the Christmas spirit, I’m sharing some tips I use in my own practice that you can use and implement to avoid your own real world Christmas letdown. If used wisely, these tips will help you ensure that you get as close to a hassle free visitation as possible with your children, despite the fact that you ex is a crazy psycho bitch.
Please note that these some of these tips apply only to those who have a Washington State based Parenting Plan. If your possession order or parenting plan comes from a different state, not all of these tips will be helpful to you.
- (1) Best tip: start early. Even if there is a parenting plan, get started early.
- Why? If you are dealing with a loose cannon on the other side, you need as much time as possible to ensure that you can to get in front of a judge.
- Only you know whether there is likely to be an issue with having some holiday visitation based on your history with your ex. If you think there is going to be a problem, get started yesterday.
- (2) Keep it civil. If you let your emotions get the best of you, it will come back to haunt you in court, or worse, you may not see your kids at all this holiday season. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let your ex manipulate you by controlling your emotions. Remember it’s a game to them. It’s not to you.
- (3) Is there a Washington Parenting Plan in place?
YES? Take a look at Section 3.3 (Winter Vacation) and 3.7 (Holiday Schedule). These two areas of the parenting plan typically contain most of the holiday visitation schedules that we will be dealing with for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah.
NO? It’s a great time to file a court case and get one. If that is not in the cards, see if your ex will agree to something informally.
- (4) Does the Parenting Plan says “Does Not Apply” or “Reserved” for the holiday visitation schedule or winter break?
- This usually means your case is still in progress. If your case is still in progress, you may need to go to court and ask a judge to force your ex to allow your Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas Day Visit, or Winter break visitation.
- (5) Get it in writing now. For that matter always get it writing. Use exact dates.
- Texting back and forth? Beware. Be as clear to what you and your ex are agreeing to as possible. Exes will try to screw you over on visitation with your children by arguing “I thought you meant 7 AM not 7 PM.” Or “I thought you meant next Sunday not this Sunday.” It happens all the time.
- TIP – Don’t say “next Sunday” or “this Sunday”, put the actual date and year.
- Ambiguity is your enemy.
- (6) Can’t agree? Check your parenting plan if you have one. Pay special attention to section 5 to see if there is something that you must do to settle the dispute. Most parenting plans contain some sort of “dispute resolution” provision. If you are required to get a mediator or arbitrator, my advice to people who are seeking my advice usually involves some form of “you need to get started two days ago”. Mediators get busy and they usually mean the other side will stall. Don’t waste time. Take action now.
- (7) If all else fails, consider court action. It’s a last resort but if you can’t get anywhere, our firm has managed to save more than one Christmas for our clients even at the last minute.
If you find yourself unable to reach a resolution, you can contact our office to schedule an appointment to see how we can help you rest easier this holiday season. You can reach us at 206-633-2015. If you even think that your holiday visitation will be an issue, take action now. If it’s too late, it’s too late. You don’t want to be kicking yourself because you blew off the conflict hoping that everything was going to be okay this year when it wasn’t last year.