Family Law...The Most Wonderful Time of The Year?

Options for sorting out holiday parenting time

Anne McFarlane – December 2016

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many that means quality time with family.  However, if you do not have a specific holiday schedule set out in your separation agreement or Court order, disputes may arise about how (and when) to share this special time of year with your children.  There are a number of options for dealing with this discrete issue, some of which are outlined below:

Direct discussion with the other party: A good starting point is to discuss with the other party how each of you would like to see the holiday time shared.  If there are long-standing traditions in the families or different religious or cultural values, it may be a relatively easy discussion to navigate.  If this option is not working or you need assistance with the fine-tuning, seeking outside help may be best.

Negotiation with the help of legal counsel: You may wish to hire a lawyer to assist you with negotiating the appropriate parenting time over the holidays.  Family lawyers can assist with effectively communicating on your behalf and brainstorming creative options for your parenting plan.  This is often the best idea for parties who struggle to keep communication on track or those who require an advocate to communicate on their behalf.

Mediation: It may be helpful to have a third party weigh in on the options for parenting over the holiday season.  There are a number of trained mediators throughout the province who practice in the area of family law.  Such an individual may be able to provide helpful suggestions and weigh in with creative solutions to the holiday schedule.  This option would likely work well for parties who generally communicate well, but cannot see eye-to-eye on the details of the holiday parenting plan.

Make a court application: If you cannot agree on how to share the holidays, it may be necessary to file with the Court.  If you are currently dealing with a dispute, it may be too late to have a court date booked before this holiday season, as Court dates book up very quickly this time of year.  If you are unable to have your matter heard before the December holidays this year, you may wish to file regardless to have a decision made regarding upcoming holidays, such as Heritage Day, Easter, or Thanksgiving.  Judges in the Supreme Court (Family Division) deal with these issues regularly, and can provide a binding decision in the absence of agreement between the parties.

The experienced family law team at MDW Law would be happy to assist you with planning for holiday parenting time.

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