Visitation during the holiday season

Picture this:  Two parties having been divorced for several years come back to court with their respective lawyers in order to fight for visitation with their children over the Christmas holiday, or to keep the other parent from having visitation with their children.  The judge hears highly-contested arguments from both parties about why this parent should get to see the kids and that parent shouldn’t be allowed to take the kids out of state to visit their extended families.  After a lot of he said/she said and pointing fingers as to who is following the custody judgment and who is not willing to cooperate, the judge has to step in this family affair to make a decision as to who ultimately should have parenting time with the children and what the relevant terms and circumstances should be

At this time of the year, courts tend to hear a great number of matters dealing directly or indirectly with parties’ visitation or parenting time schedules with their children.  Even if the parties with children generally get along and cooperate during the rest of the year, the holidays and all the familial and social commitments that inevitably go along with the season seem to aggravate existing tensions between the parents.

First, there is the question of who gets to have parenting time with the children during which holiday.  One typical way in which parties going through a divorce or custody proceeding resolve the issue is to give one parent visitation over the Thanksgiving holiday and the other parent visitation over the Christmas holiday, and to alternate said holidays so that each parent gets the particular holiday every other year.  This arrangement, however, does depend on several factors, such as the age of the children or the distance between the parties’ residences.  Of course, these types of issues occur outside of the holiday season as well; however, parents are particular litigious and less willing to negotiate parenting time over the holidays.

Another problem that may arise in regards to the holiday season is whether a parent can travel outside of the state of Illinois.  Oftentimes, a parent will want to take advantage of the children’s winter vacation and take them to see their extended family in another state or outside the U.S. for the holidays.  This raises concerns of whether the parent has complied with the court order or custody judgment, if there is one in place.  Has that parent consulted with the other parent?  Have they provided proper notification and contact information pursuant to the terms of the order or judgment?  Are they acting in the best interest of the children?

It is understandable that both parties want to spend as much time with their children as possible, especially during the holiday season.  However, it should also be comprehensible that parents will typically have to divide up the holidays, whether they want to or not.  Though not always possible, or practical, it would be best for the parties if they make attempts to negotiate and agree on some middle ground so that they can resolve the issue of holiday visitation without relying on the court.

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