By Allison L. Murphy
Though every divorce decree should have specific provisions regarding possession of the children during the major holidays, often those provisions get ignored.
One parent may have relatives come in town and want to keep the children longer, or may decide to plan a trip that overlaps with the other parent’s time.
This behavior can present a frustrating and challenging dilemma for the parent whose parenting time has been affected.
Most co-parenting courses will advise parents to try to be flexible with one another, in order to act in the children’s best interest. And of course, most of the time, parents do so.
However, when cooperation isn’t possible, or deviating from the agreed parenting time schedule becomes the norm for one party, additional action may be needed.
The first and most important piece of advice in these situations is to confirm everything in writing. Whether that is by e-mail, text message, or even handwritten letters, it is critical to have written evidence of the possession dispute.
Make sure you carefully review your parenting time schedule before the holidays and confirm your understanding of days and times with your former spouse.
If your former spouse calls on the day your parenting time is scheduled to begin and tells you she won’t be bringing the children back to you until the next day, send her an e-mail reiterating what she told you over the phone and advising that you do not agree.
At the time of your actual scheduled start time, which is often 6:00 p.m., send another e-mail or text message stating that if she refuses to bring the children to you, then you will be forced to take legal action.
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Alternatively, if you cannot get written proof of the violation of your parenting time, you may try to record a conversation between you and your former spouse. Make sure that you are clear about your objection to whatever intended violation is expressed.
Unfortunately, one problem parents face in this situation is that sometimes nothing can be done to prevent the parenting time interference ahead of time. Or, many times the other party does not notify you of her intent, but instead just fails to return the children at the proper time.
In such circumstances, most recourse is through an enforcement action, after the violation has occurred. Further, since most courts are closed on and near major holidays, parents are forced to wait until the courts re-open to present a motion.
However, if you receive advance notice from your former spouse that she intends to infringe on your time of possession, you may be able to seek emergency protection from the courts in advance.
As soon as your former spouse tells you of her intentions, you should contact your attorney immediately to seek emergency protection. Your attorney may also be able to provide you with additional tips for addressing your particular situation. Do not hesitate to contact your divorce lawyer if you have questions or concerns about your parenting time schedule during the holidays.