‘Tis the Season for Holiday Placement Disputes and Strained Exchanges

As the holiday season approaches, we at Doar, Drill & Skow are here to answer your questions on how to establish a holiday placement schedule and what to do if your co-parent does not adhere to the schedule.

We have no holiday placement schedule, what should we do?
Regardless of whether you have been through court and there was no holiday placement schedule established or you have not yet been to court, you may still be able to make arrangements for a holiday placement schedule. In general, if you and your co-parent are able to agree upon a placement schedule during the holiday season, it will be enforced. In creating your holiday placement schedule, be sure to keep in mind the following factors:
– Add specific times. It may be that you agree that Parent A should have Christmas Eve and Parent B should have Christmas Day. However, you need to add start and end times to the holidays so both parents know exactly when their time will start and end.
– Plan for alternate exchange locations. If your holiday travels will take you away from your regular exchange location, build in a new exchange point for the holiday schedule.
– Keep the best interests of the children in mind. While it may be convenient for you to have a 5:00 a.m. exchange on Christmas Day, it will almost certainly not be in the child’s best interests to wake up that early.

Most importantly, once you and your co-parent have agreed upon a holiday placement schedule, your agreement should be put in writing. Each parent should sign and date the agreement. Both of you should be given a copy of the written agreement. If time prohibits you from writing out the agreement, at a bare minimum, you should make sure the agreement is in writing using whatever communication platform you and your co-parent use (i.e. text or email). Both parents should respond to the schedule expressing agreement.
If you have an existing court case, you should promptly file a stipulation and proposed order to change placement in your underlying file.

We have a holiday placement schedule but my co-parent is refusing to follow it.
Unfortunately, not all parents strictly follow the holiday placement schedule. If you have a holiday placement schedule and the other parent is indicating they will not be following it this year, or is late to exchange, the best thing you can do is remain calm and document the situation. While the heat of the moment can be extremely frustrating, remain focused on the best interest of your children and do your best to shield them from the situation. For example, if the other parent is late, place your children in your car and out of earshot before discussing the tardiness with the other parent.

We recommend the following approach to these situations:
– Remind the other parent of the terms of the Court order. Direct their attention to the most applicable terms of the order (i.e. exchange location, time, or placement arrangement).
– Take a copy of the most recent court order with you to your exchange location.
– If the other parent is 15 minutes late, or longer, contact your local law enforcement agency to make a report of the non-compliance.
– File a motion for contempt or a motion to change the terms of the underlying order. When filing these motions, it is important to have realistic expectations and requests of the Court.
For example, the Court isn’t going to order the other parent to serve jail time for failing to comply with the placement schedule. Be sure to include appropriate requests of the Court in your motion (i.e. additional placement time to make up for missed time, modified holiday schedule for the next year, etc.)

In sum, if the other parent is not following the placement schedule or late to the exchanges, the best thing you can do is remain claim and document the situation. Remember courthouses close for the holidays and that there is nothing that can be filed with the Court until it opens. Document what happened, the time it happened, and keep any written communication between you and the other parent. This documentation will be helpful to you when you finally get in front of a judge.

The holiday season can be a great time to create lasting memories with your children. It can also be a stressful time to work though co-parenting issues. Start planning early and document everything in writing. We at Doar, Drill & Skow are here to help you through the stressful holiday season. 1-877-DOARLAW