Child Visitation: It's Time For The Holiday Hopscotch
By Maria Schwartz, Esq., Contributor - November 26, 2013
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With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it's starting already… sadly, the holiday games begin.

The emails, letters, phone calls, meetings, and threatened court action have all begun. What's all the fuss? Where will Johnny or Suzie be this year for the holidays? The truth is that most want to be with both their parents, and all their family. The reality is that for most, that will not be the case.  

Your little one is going to get tossed, and you are going to have to carefully and artfully hop and jump through the course all while staying in the lines. So how can you ensure that you don't lose your turn and reach 'safe'?

Start Early: The holidays all come around on the same day or time of the year. You know which ones are important to you, and you know which ones you had last. List the holidays out, think about which days you would like, and as early as possible, send your spouse (or lawyer) your proposal. Don't wait until the week of the upcoming holiday to first discuss a schedule. If you can't work something out, you may end up in court, and realistically, with holidays and vacations, if your spouse's lawyer or your lawyer is not around, you just may find that getting to court is not so easy.

Prioritize: Most holidays are almost always alternated year to year between parents.  However, some holidays may be more important to you or your spouse than others. Think about which holidays you may want to designate as yours, and which ones you may be willing to trade or give up. Yes, Veteran's Day may be a holiday, but is it important to you? Are you able to spend that day with your children? Is it a day you want to have for the sake of having? Is this a day you might be able to give up to get something in return?

Be Creative: Yes, holidays are all about tradition, and maybe you have had a family tradition for years and years, but don't get stuck on the principal of your tradition at the expense of your or your children's joy.  Divorce brings change-some good, some bad, and some just different.  Perhaps your tradition was to celebrate with a "dinner" and now, at least every other year, you may celebrate with a "brunch." It's no secret that I'm a divorced mom, and I can tell you that I've had "Thanksgiving" on a Wednesday night before, complete with Turkey and a house full of guests. No, this doesn't work for all the holidays, but for some or many it does, and believe me, the kids will be thankful for a wonderful and happy gathering on a Wednesday than a sad and bitter Thursday dinner.

Play fair: If you had one holiday last year, then your spouse will have that holiday this year. Absent some extraordinary circumstances, this is the way a court is going to handle it, so save yourself the stress, tears and money you are sure to lose. 

Once you've worked out your visitation schedule, make sure you put it in writing, and if you're in litigation, speak to your attorney about making that schedule an "Order." This will take time, so again, make sure you start early. Getting the schedule in writing not only protects your rights this year, but establishes a precedent for next year, or at the very least clarifies who had which holidays this year.

The holidays should be fun and wonderful time for you to enjoy with the ones you love. Don't let what should be a festive time for your children be ruined. You're all going through a hard time as it is.

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