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Top 5 Family Law Issues Over the Holidays

The holidays are often spent with family. For some people, this is an exciting time of the year. For others, it is a source of stress. For divorced couples, how do you share custody during the holidays? Can you change a custody agreement in Illinois? What about grandparent visitation rights? Read on to learn more about the most common family law issues during the holidays and some potential solutions.

The holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people. Some grapple with the loss of a loved one over holidays. Some couples put off their divorces until after the holiday season. Some people struggle to spend a lot of time with their families.

While the holidays can be a wonderful time, they can also come with a lot of tension. If you are struggling during the holiday season, you are not alone. Here are the top 5 family law issues that occur during the holidays.

  1. Couples Putting off Divorce

Going through a divorce can be a stressful experience in someone’s life. Unfortunately, it’s common for couples who wish to get a divorce to hold off until after the holidays. They tend to do so for the sake of the kids and other family members, but it can be hard to keep a brave face with an impending divorce looming as soon as the holiday magic is gone. It is important to know that this is something many couples struggle with.

  1. Rushed Proposals

Proposals are a common occurrence during the holiday season. In fact, Christmas Day is the most popular day to propose. Because of the excitement of the holidays, many people rush into proposals without considering all the legal issues to take into account. For example, do you know if you want your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement?

Legally, an engagement ring is considered a “conditional gift” based on the marriage taking place and the ring goes back to the purchaser if the engagement is broken, regardless of who ends it. But rings given on Christmas, Valentine’s Day or birthdays are typically classified as more traditional gifts, and the majority of courts have allowed the receiver to keep them. 

  1. Making a Holiday Parenting Plan/Schedule

When it comes down to it, the most difficult aspect of child custody during the holidays is figuring out who will be where and when. The next hardest component is making that schedule happen. Be realistic with the holiday itinerary and consider input from the children, if possible. Be proactive and create a Holiday Parenting Plan. Here are some considerations:

  1. Identify the specific holidays that are important to you and your family.
  2. Be specific about the times that define the holiday.
  3. Consider whether or not the holiday may or will involve travel. It is important to build this into your holiday plan even if you do not plan to travel every year.
  4. Consider whether or not the holiday can be incorporated into the regular parenting time plan.
  5. Consider whether or not it is possible to have the holiday included. For example, some holidays are during the school day (Halloween) and if you decide you want to split the holiday, how will that happen once the children are in school? Dividing this time means that one parent is transporting the children during prime trick or treating time. Is this really what you want for your children?

4. Changes to custody agreements

Often, divorced couples with children wish to change their custody agreements as the holidays roll around. When seeking a modification, a motion to modify custody must be filed. The motion must be filed in the county where the original custody order was signed. If the child no longer lives in that county, it may be possible to have the case transferred. This can be difficult to do at the last minute, so you should contact our firm to discuss your options. If you are facing an issue where your child has been taken overseas by the other parent, you could be entitled to file legal action under the Hague Convention for international parental child abduction. 

  1. Questions about visitation

Many families have questions about custody and visitation rights. What rights do grandparents have to see their grandkids over the holidays? Unfortunately for the state of Illinois, it does not provide for any visitation to grandparents or other non-parents by default. Unless it’s proven to harm the child, parents are given the discretion to choose who their child has a relationship with or not. 

In the event a grandparent is trying to petition for visitation rights, they must show that a relationship existed with the children before a divorce. In other words, a court may help restore an existing relationship but will not help build a new one.

Final Thoughts

Holiday parenting time issues are extremely common.  They often create strong emotional responses from each parent because not only is it their parenting time, but also it frequently includes extended family members visiting or who have traveled to see the children. In the event of battling with an ex over visitation schedules, or any other family law issue such as divorce or even post-divorce disputes: Remember, if you’re facing any of these issues you aren’t alone. We’ve seen and heard it all and are here to serve and guide you through this season.

Get in touch with our award-winning Masters Law Group Attorneys today for help figuring out a solution to your problem. 

 

Making a Parenting Plan for Thanksgiving

If this is your first Thanksgiving as a divorced or separated parent, there could be a lot of confusion wondering how to create a fair parenting plan. If the holiday periods haven’t been defined in the custodial arrangements yet, make sure that you are creating a plan that is fair and takes the best interest of the children into consideration.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday November 26th. A time designed for family gatherings, it’s a tough spot for many recently-divorced or separated parents.

Because Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend are times when both parents want to be with the child or children, you want to make solid arrangements for this holiday in your holiday schedule. The obvious answer is to divide up the holidays, but it’s often hard to imagine how the holidays could be split in a way that feels fair to everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the options for splitting custody for Thanksgiving and other important holidays.

Alternating Holidays

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. This way, each parent has their children for some of the big holidays every year, and they never go more than one year without their child for any given holiday.

Fixed Holidays

An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions. For example, if one parent is Jewish, they will have the child(ren) over Hanukkah, and if the other parent Christian, they will have the child(ren) over the Christmas holidays. However, this does leave holidays like Thanksgiving up for debate where individuals of almost every religion celebrate throughout the United States.

Split Holidays

Split holidays are a great idea if both parents live close together as the child(ren) can spend Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with BOTH parents at different locations. The only thing to decide upon is the time. For example, one parent can have custody the day prior and the first half of Thanksgiving day, then the other parent has custody the second half of the Thanksgiving and the following day. For obvious reasons, if the parents’ homes or holiday celebrations are too far apart, it can get more complicated.

Double Holidays

Finally, some parents may choose to run “double holidays” where they both have a day of celebrations, just on different days. Parents can simply let the custody schedule play out as is, letting whichever parent would normally have the child on the official holiday date celebrate that day, and the other parent can celebrate with the child on their next scheduled visit. Alternatively, parents can designate a date for the second holiday – one parent celebrates Thanksgiving on the 26th and the other celebrates on the 30th. In this scenario, parents could alternate years so that they each get the official holiday every other year.

Final Thoughts

The prospect of formulating a custody calendar is a daunting task for many recently divorced or separated parents.  Working directly with your co-parent to create your joint custody schedule and holiday custody plan is a great way to keep the peace. Your schedule will be unique to your family dynamic and must be sensitive to each of your personal schedules, but most importantly, putting the welfare of the children should always come first and foremost.

Parenting Time Rights with Masters Law Group

From allocation of parental responsibilities to legal separation matters and parenting time rights, Masters Law Group focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children.

We understand parenting time of your child is a very emotional law topic, especially during the holidays. Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Are you facing a family law issue involving the children? Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.