Thursday, November 20, 2008

Makin' a List, Checkin' it Twice ...

One of the most stressful times for a family going through a divorce or after a divorce is the holidays. Family traditions have to adjust to new living arrangements, court orders and emotional conflict. Among the holidays, the traditional two biggies for conflict are Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Thanksgiving is coming up and I hope you already have a clear mutual understanding of the schedule for the kids. If not, you need to talk right away. Don't wait until Wednesday or Thursday to work out the details. In Texas, we have a standard possession order that covers the holidays very well. In even-numbered years (that includes 2008), the parent who does not have primary custody will normally have the children for Thanksgiving, beginning the day school lets out and ending the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving. The other parent has the kids for the same time period in odd-numbered years. BUT, check your order to make sure that it is set up that way.

The Christmas schedule can be more complicated. The standard provision is usually for the parent with primary custody to have the kids for the first part of the Christmas break in even-numbered years and the second part of the break in odd-numbered years. The exchange time in the middle used to be noon on December 26, but in new orders, it may be noon on December 28. Or your order may have something entirely different. SO, check you order to find out for sure when the possession times are and when the exchange is.

A helpful reminder is that whoever has the kids for Thanksgiving normally has them for the second half of the Christmas break.

Note: For those of other than Christian faiths, your court order can be written to reflect your personal holiday preferences. You should not feel like you are limited to standard Christian observances. With your input, your attorney can create or modify an order that reflects your religious practices or non-practices in the holiday season.

In Tarrant County, divorce lawyers can easily put together a schedule that meets your needs, but it is important that you tell your preferences. If necessary, we can get you into court shortly before the holidays to clarify of modify the visitation schedules, but please let us know as far in advance as possible because the courts get very crowded in December each year.

Final Tip: A little communication goes a long way. Before bringing in the attorneys, you should always consider just talking with the other parent. Even if you don't get along real well, a brief discussion can save both of you a lot of money if you can reach an agreement. You are not bound to a court order if you both agree on something. You can be as creative as you want to, as long as you both agree.

Good luck and happy holidays!

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