This time of year is always incredibly busy for family law lawyers, as parents quarrel over Christmas parenting arrangements. The stress and uncertainty surrounding Christmas access disputes is heightened by the sheer number of these disputes that end up in court during the month of December, and the resulting difficulty of having the matter heard and determined in time for the holidays.
Many parties initially feel as though specifying holiday parenting time is unnecessary, based on current circumstances where the parties find they are getting along quite well. However, those circumstances often change leaving one or both parties unhappy with the parenting Agreement in place and on their way back to court.
It is always advisable to set out a specified schedule initially, rather than down the road, as any change to a court order ordinarily requires establishing a material change in circumstances before the court. There are many ways of fairly apportioning the Christmas break in specified ways, which assist in eliminating many points of disagreement. Some clients opt to alternate Christmas on an annual basis, whereas others divide the pertinent holidays so that they each have some time with the children over December 24th and December 25th as well as approximately one week either before Christmas or afterwards and prior to school commencing in January.
Although not foolproof, the best way of avoiding this unpleasant scenario is insisting upon a specified Christmas access schedule when negotiating (or litigating) your initial divorce and/or parenting Agreement.