The holidays can turn into one of the most hellish seasons of the year if custody issues flare up. The frustration of sharing custody can put incredible pressure on the relationship between separated parents. Parents with serious addictions may go off the deep end during the holiday season and cause excessive problems or put their children in extremely dangerous situations. I have noticed over the years that almost every holiday we end up in emergency court due to the life choices of my stepdaughter's mother. A conversation with our attorney recently confirmed my suspicions that this is something many families go through and one that keeps attorneys very busy during the holiday season.
The month of December can be an explosive pressure cooker for many divorced or separated families. While it's impossible to immunize ourselves against potential problems there are some things we should do just in case.
1) Have the appropriate, most up to date copy of the court order. Sometimes these need to be certified copies. Talk to your attorney to make sure you have the proper documentation if you have a history of problems at the holidays.
2) Be sure about who you should contact if your child's other parent does not show up to drop off your child. Your attorney can also advice you on this. In some cases it may be a police department, in others a sheriff's department. You may also need to contact Child Protective Services. It may be likely that your attorney will need to go to court for emergency action by the judge. Know what you will need to do, just in case.
3) Be sure you are aware of your attorney's holiday schedule and the court's closure dates. Many law offices close for at least at week at the holiday season. Plan accordingly so that you aren't caught in an emergency while their offices or the courts are closed.
4) Make sure you have communicated with the other parent in every way possible to verify that you are on the same page about pick up and drop off. Irresponsible parents are notorious for not reading emails, listening to voicemails or having any idea what it says in the court order. Use every communications method you can document and speak in person to make sure that there can be no question in the other parent's mind about when drop off and pick up are scheduled.
5) Make sure you pick kids up in plenty of time before any scheduled pre-paid travel. More than once we have missed flights and had trips significantly delayed by my stepdaughter's mother not showing up at the appointed time. This seems to especially happen when she knows our travel details. Rescheduling travel during the holidays is a nightmare. If you can give yourself a couple of days before you are to leave to make sure you have your child and are ready to go you will save yourself potentially very stressful and expensive problems.
No matter what happens, make the most of every minute you have together. Anything less than living with your child one hundred percent of the time is hard to accept. With school and extracurricular activities it can be very difficult to have time with your kids. Teach yourself and then teach them how to make the most in every moment you have together and not worry about how short the time is. You will remember how you felt far longer than what you did. Make it a loving, joyful time together, however short it is.
I pray for all parents of sweet children living in two homes that your holidays will be peaceful and joyful, without problems. I hope you will enjoy every moment together and a love that will carry you peacefully into the new year.