How Do I Manage Custody Issues Over the Easter Holiday?
Spring is in the air, which means that the sun is setting later, the days are getting warmer, and the flowers are starting to bloom. For Christians around the world, spring is also associated with the Easter holiday, although families who do not observe the religious aspect of the holiday may still participate in the more commercialized customs, like Easter egg hunts and giving Easter baskets filled with treats to their children. However, for divorced parents who are doing their best to navigate complex custody issues, Easter can be a stressful time. Whether you have the children for Easter, or they are spending the holiday with your ex-spouse, there are helpful guidelines you can follow that will make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone involved.
In addition to Easter Sunday and the activities planned for that day, spring break for schools often starts or ends with the Easter weekend. That may necessitate extra planning, particularly for the week that schools are closed and the children are home. Depending on the custody agreement that is in place, divorced parents must maintain a consistent routine and follow the terms of the divorce agreement, even if it means that one parent is alone on Easter, or feels as though they are missing out on precious time spent with their children. The following tips can help divorced parents navigate the Easter holiday as smoothly as possible:
Just because the children are spending Easter Sunday with your ex-spouse does not mean that you cannot celebrate the holiday with them. For example, consider celebrating Easter on the previous, or the following Sunday, particularly if going to church is part of your Easter tradition. Otherwise, you could extend the Easter festivities during spring break if the children are spending part or all of their week off with you.
Make New Memories
Adjusting to new customs and traditions can be difficult for you and the children. While your traditions may change now that you are no longer married, consider it an opportunity to create new traditions that you and the children will enjoy together. Encourage the children to suggest ideas for new family customs and traditions that they can do when they are with you. As you are adjusting to these changes, make sure that the children know that it is okay to feel sad about the new family dynamic, and that they should feel comfortable talking about it with you.
Be Willing to Compromise
Divorced parents who are able to compromise tend to have the healthiest and most effective custody arrangements. That means that both parents involved must be willing to bend and make changes if it is in the best interest of the children. For example, if your ex-spouse has custody of the children on Easter, consider talking to your ex about allowing you to have custody the following Easter. If your ex-spouse does not observe Easter, consider being flexible when negotiating visitation for another holiday like Thanksgiving.
When negotiating a custody agreement, rather than assign holidays to certain parents every year based on each parent’s preference, consider alternating holidays each year. For example, for Easter and other major holidays, you get custody of the children on the odd years, and your ex gets them on the even years.
Follow the Court’s Standard Schedule
If you and your former spouse cannot agree on a parenting schedule, the court will decide on a schedule during a custody hearing or trial. The New Jersey holiday schedule alternates child visitation every other year for Easter and Christmas. For other holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Fourth of July, parents are encouraged to work out a schedule that shares custody equally.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
The more you and your ex are able to communicate in a way that is mature and respectful, the better you will be able to resolve issues that arise. If a conversation becomes heated, do not get into an argument in front of the children. Keep in mind that miscommunications happen, but if you are able to talk through the miscommunications with them in an open and honest way, you are more likely to resolve the issue without damaging your relationship.
Enjoy Time to Yourself
If your children are with your ex-spouse for Easter, do not wallow or feel sorry for yourself. Focus on the positive aspects of having time to yourself. Do something to treat yourself, like schedule a massage or make plans with friends. If you observe the religious aspects of Easter, attend a service with friends or family members and keep yourself busy. Other activities you can participate in include delivering flowers or Easter baskets to the elderly, spending time outside in nature, going to a movie without having to worry about paying for a sitter, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.
What Are Common Spring Break-Related Custody Issues?
Oftentimes, families plan vacations during the week of spring break. However, this can cause problems if the parents are divorced, and share custody with the children. For example, one parent may want to plan an all-inclusive, action-packed Disney vacation, while the other parent may feel that the children would benefit from some down time and a break from constant scheduled activities. Even if a couple’s divorce was cordial, there are a wide range of questions related to custody that may arise leading up to spring break that can complicate an otherwise amicable custody arrangement, including the following:
- Should we alternate spring break or divide the time? Spring break generally lasts a week, which may allow both parents to each plan two separate vacations. However, logistically, this could get very complicated, particularly if the vacations involve long flights or require the children to pack different clothing. Sometimes the solution is to alternate spring breaks each year, so each parent has the option of planning a vacation for the entire week.
- If the divorce decree does not address parenting time, who gets the children over spring break? This will likely depend on the details of the custody agreement and the days that the school designates as spring break. If your ex-spouse takes the children on vacation over spring break, you will need to know what day of the weekend, and what time you can expect the children to be returned to you.
- What if my ex takes the children on a spring break trip without telling me where they are going? Unless there is a specific provision in the custody agreement that prohibits your ex from doing so, he or she may take the children wherever he or she wants. However, depending on the details of the custody and visitation agreement, your ex may be required to notify you if he or she plans to take the children on a trip, and where they are going. If he or she ignores your requests to keep you informed of vacation plans, you may be able to demonstrate that your ex is interfering with your visitation rights.
- I have primary custody of the children, but my ex-spouse will not give me permission to take the children on vacation over spring break. What are my options? It is important to understand that even if you have primary physical placement, you could be held in contempt or your ex could file an enforcement motion if the dates of the trip coincide with the days that the children are supposed to be with your ex. Make sure that you provide written details about the trip, including the dates that you wish to have the children. If your ex pursues an action against you, you will be able to provide proof that you provided the necessary details about the trip. You may be able to argue that your ex was being unreasonable.
- If my child wants to go on a spring break vacation with friends, will I be given compensatory parenting time? Technically, you would only be eligible for compensatory parenting time if you were wrongfully deprived of your right to visitation. However, if your ex allowed your child to go on the trip during your court-ordered parenting time, you may be able to make a case for compensatory parenting time. However, if you also agreed to let your child go on the vacation, this would not be a valid argument.
Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients With Custody Issues
If you and your former spouse are unable to reach an agreement about sharing custody with your children over the Easter holiday, do not hesitate to contact our Somerville child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We understand how complicated the holidays can be when you share custody with your ex-spouse. Our skilled and compassionate legal team will work closely with you to ensure that your custody agreement is honored and that the children’s best interests are the top priority. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. With offices in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we assist clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison and Morris Plains.