Planning Your Ideal Holiday Demands Extra Forethought in the Post-Divorce Reality
I know it's only September 6th. You're still dusting beach sand off of your sandals, the backyard pool isn't closed yet and haunted hayrides are still at least one month away. But as this morning's unseasonably cool weather should remind you, folks, the autumn season tends to fly by as our busy schedules quickly fill the calendar. Costumed teenagers jumping out of trees on farms at your family is only one month away. Cool weather inevitably brings back the “holidays.” Fall breaks and the long-Columbus Day weekend are first up and important to some of our clients since they present an opportunity for distance travel. Halloween is a fan favorite as we've already mentioned. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and of course, last but hardly least, the Christmas vacation represent unique challenges for domestic planners in equal measure. These notable dates on the calendar are nevertheless ones which most of our DeMichele & DeMichele clients look forward to celebrating. They want to spend with their families and especially their children. Who doesn't want to take their son trick-or-treating around the neighborhood? Or see the joy on their daughter's face unwrapping a present on Christmas morning? It isn't always easy to facilitate. Divorce naturally complicates everyone's holiday plans particularly in those early years when the children are small and this life-changing event is still fresh in everyone's mind.
Consequently, we've written extensively about holiday parenting time here at our DeMichele & DeMichele blog. We've also detailed the many ways in which we attempt to help our clients resolve their parenting time disputes. In fact, it's such a common issue for divorced or unmarried parents that New Jersey's courts have adopted default holiday calendars. Our goal is always to understand our client's parenting goals and then work hard to maximize that quality time. There's no such thing as “one size fits all” advice in family law practice, least of all where it concerns parenting time, but here is one tip which we annually stress to all of our clients: If possible, avoid waiting until the 11th hour to seek parenting time modifications or holiday time accommodations! The typical turnaround time for a motion application in New Jersey family court — from the time it is filed until the return date before the judge – is anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Naturally, you will need time to meet with your attorney and prepare the filing on the front end. There is always the possibility of court scheduling conflicts or routine adjournment requests which could further delay a resolution. Moreover, some New Jersey counties are facing judicial shortages which prolongs the motion process. Bottom line: you are undercutting your chances of success by filing a motion to modify Christmas parenting time on November 15th! Don't make that mistake. Begin to contemplate your holiday calendar now. Will you take a vacation? Has something changed from last year? Did a particular aspect of the holiday parenting arrangement not work last time around? When parenting time or holiday schedule disputes arise, parents should always first consult the parenting schedule set forth in their New Jersey Custody Order, Property Settlement Agreement and/or Final Judgment of Divorce. Typically, parenting schedules are based on the court Holidays and Special Days Parenting Time Schedule, although custom arrangements are also very common. Next, I highly recommend taking a deep breath and thinking hard about (1) what holiday arrangement is actually in your child(ren)'s best interest, and (2) which holidays/traditions are truly important to each respective party. Your attorney can better assist you if you have clear goals in mind. You may then elect to negotiate directly with the other parent. Often, however, you are no longer in a relationship with that person precisely because communication on major issues is unproductive. There may also be additional complications – like distance or a restraining order – which render substantive conversations impossible. Don't play the waiting game and miss out on holiday memories; it may already be too late for this year by the time greeting card companies begin running televised holiday commercials. When a legally-enforceable parenting schedule doesn't exist, or if the parents simply cannot agree, then it's time to consider consulting an experienced New Jersey family law attorney. You may need to file an application with whichever county family court has jurisdiction over your parenting conflict. Your attorney may also try to negotiate a settlement depending upon the circumstances of your case. Compassionate, experienced and zealous representation is only an email or phone call away. If you or someone you know is grappling with a custody, parenting time or holiday schedule dispute in New Jersey, contact the family law attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele online today. Your confidential initial consultation can also be scheduled by calling our family law attorneys: (856) 546-1350.