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Child custody disagreements & holidays: Three resolution options

Child custody disagreements tend to peak between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It is not uncommon for parents to feel a need to be with children and share traditions. This desire can collide with the reality of the agreed upon child custody arrangement. There are ways to avoid or navigate through these issues. Three potential options for resolution include:


  • Preemptive agreement. Ideally, the issue is addressed before the divorce is complete. Parents negotiate and agree upon a child custody arrangement that accounts for the holidays. If possible, make new traditions and create holiday memories within the bounds of the custody order.
  • Negotiate a change. Sometimes sticking to the bounds of the custody order is not an option. Plans change. Maybe a grandparent, aunt, uncle or loved one has a gathering you would like to share with your children. If this happens, attempt to discuss a need to deviate from the arrangement as soon as you become aware of the possibility. Do your best to give time for discussion, do not expect approval if making a short notice request.
  • Court involvement. Although not ideal, court intervention is a possibility if a parent is not abiding by the child custody agreement. In the event a parent’s request is unreasonable or the parent is bullying the other parent into a new agreement for the holidays, a parent could file a petition with the court to enforce the agreement and address the situation. This generally leads to a hearing and can result in the offending parent getting a fine or potential imprisonment.

If possible, try to have the negotiations outside of the children’s presence. It is also important to note that depending on the details of the situation a more permanent change to the child custody arrangement may be required. This could call for an official modification. An attorney can review your situation and discuss the benefits of this option.

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