The Christmas and holiday season is something we all look forward to as a time we can see family, sometimes bringing people together across long distances or long periods of time between visits. However, for some families that are going through or have gone through a divorce, the holiday season can be stressful and sensitive, especially if it’s the first time starting a new visitation schedule.
Holidays are a hard time to organize already, and if your first time starting holiday visitation doesn’t go as planned, here are some things you can do:
Keep copies of your paperwork easily accessible for both you and your children.
Should there be any dispute of previous agreements, court orders, or visitation schedules, it is good to have copies of any paperwork you can access quickly and easily. You may keep paper copies in a file at home or in your car, or digital copies on your phone or computer. If you do not have copies of your documents, you may get copies from your attorney or request them from the court, but whenever there is any argument over what was agreed upon, he who has the paperwork wins.
Follow the rules, even if the other party is not.
Sometimes it can be hard to abide by an agreement if the other person is refusing to, but it is better to be above the fray so that when reinforcements are called, you are the one left standing on solid foundation. Custody agreements often have clauses where one parent may not disparage another parent to or around their children, but even if your ex-spouse is saying things about you to your children right in front of you, maintain your side of the agreement and have your agreement ready should you need to call law enforcement.
Know when you need to call for help- your local Sheriff, and your attorney.
No one wants to call the police at Christmas time, but when it comes to spending this important time with your family, it is better to deal with the issue the very first time it arises. If someone is withholding visitation or not abiding by a court order of custody, they are breaking the law and you have a right to call the Sheriff. Sheriffs are state officers and can enforce a state court order in any county, no matter the county it was filed in. If you feel the need to call a Sheriff, or wonder if you should, it is always good to call your attorney first. He or she can give you advice on the situation and may be able to file an emergency petition if they feel it is needed.
Most importantly- Stay calm, stay positive.
These situations can be incredibly tense and can sometimes bring out the worst in us, but this is not the time to panic or start a fight. How you encounter the first Christmas as a new family is incredibly important to how the rest of your year, and future holidays, will go, and it is important that your children see you as confident, positive, and always there for them.
Even if things start to get heated, remember your rights, have your paperwork ready, call reinforcements if you need them, and remember what’s most important is your family’s safety and happiness. And of course, call your attorney.