It’s the holiday season and spending time with family is more important than ever. But what happens when you are a single parent trying to negotiate with your ex-husband or ex-wife for an extra holiday visit with your kids? New Jersey divorce and family law attorney Bari Weinberger was recently interviewed for NJ 101.5 to give her take on the topic of child custody and the holidays, and why most couples should seriously consider writing a plan for the holidays right into their divorce settlement.
We will post the interview once it’s available, but in the meantime, if you and your soon-to-be former spouse are trying to work out the best NJ child custody plan possible for your children, here are some points to consider.
What are the main benefits of including a formal holiday plan as part of child custody arrangements?
According to Weinberger, taking the time during divorce negotiations to hash out a formal plan can reduce stress in the long run because it provides both children and adults with greater certainty and the ability to plan.
As Weinberger notes, some couples may say, “Oh, we’re okay with the holidays…we’ve already decided to spend the important days together [or have some other verbally agreed-upon plan], so we don’t need to negotiate or bother writing that out.”
However, what happens when a new significant other enters the picture and suddenly one parent wants to spend the day with the child and this person only? What if the other parent wants to go on vacation? Or what happens if the parents have a disagreement over another issue, whether child-related or not? Will they still want to spend the holidays together when things aren’t so amicable? Having a fixed plan in place gives parents an obligation to live up to, but also provides them with an agreement that can then be formally modified and updated as needed.
If parents don’t have a holiday plan currently or wish to change their plan, how should they proceed?
For most couples, Weinberger recommends considering mediation first before going to court. As she relays, just because you have a disagreement doesn’t mean you need to go back to court. Working with a mediator is a way for both sides to express their concerns and work towards an agreement each can live with. Resolving disputes through mediation is one way to avoid costs associated with litigation.
Holiday plan or no holiday plan, what about parents who want to spend more time with their kids right now?
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this goal? Simply ask your ex-spouse for more time. Weinberger finds that parents are often surprised at how willing an ex is to accommodate a request for more time during the holidays, especially if you are polite, respectful, and can convey that it is in the children’s best interest for this change to take place.
If you are receiving end of a request, consider how your response now may buy goodwill in the future and a reciprocal courtesy. A simple request can often lead to better flexibility and co-parenting into the future.