The Do’s and Don’ts of Drafting Holiday Parenting Plans
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. The Inside Track (1:15)
Look very closely at your attorney’s bill every single month. Why? You want to make sure that the right person is billing for the projects that are being done on your case. There are a lot of tasks that don’t need to be done by the most expensive person on your team — your attorney.
(1:48) There are a lot of tasks that can be delegated to and done by less expensive people. For example, if your case requires that depositions be transcribed, those can be done by someone OTHER than your attorney. If filing needs to be done, your attorney should not be doing that. Routine office tasks should not be billed for by your attorney.
Check those bills. Scrutinize them. Talk to your attorney about who is doing what if you need to!
2. The Do’s and Don’ts of Drafting Holiday Parenting Plans (2:27)
During the holidays, disputes frequently arise over how to interpret holiday parenting plans. What this ends up doing is ruining the holidays for children. Because of this, Wendy, Tracy and Stefano decided to dedicate this podcast to holiday parenting plans.
(3:56) One issue Tracy has frequently seen in her cases is when the specifics (of parenting plans) don’t account for “special circumstances.” For example, in one of her cases, Tracy had to seek court intervention when mother’s birthday fell right in the middle of the winter break schedule (and that part of the schedule was supposed to be dad’s parenting time). Because there was another provision in the parenting plan that said each parent was supposed to have his or her birthday every year, this caused a conflict.
(5:51) Tip #1: Think about weird anomalies that might happen (like conflicts between major parenting time “events” [like birthdays and holidays]) when drafting your holiday parenting time plan.
(6:01) (FYI – In Tracy’s case, the judge ended up giving mom her birthday, and the days were shifted around so dad got his “whole” block of winter break time.)
(6:23) Next, Stefano chimes in about how he is seeing judges commonly divide winter break time between parties. According to him, the easiest way to divide the time is by (1) giving each parent ½ of the total break (where the parents alternate halves) or (2) dividing the break into 3 segments (where the parents alternate segments every year). (Stefano is not as big of a fan of dividing the break into 3 segments.)
Tip #2: In drafting a winter break plan, first think about whether 2 segments or 3 would be in the best interest of your children.
(8:28) Tracy has seen winter break plans (like described above by Stefano) be problematic when judges simply divide the break equally, and then the holiday break ends up being an odd number of days. Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals turn one extra day into a big stink. This is too bad, because holidays are about the children.
Tip #3: If you are ordered (or you agree) to divide the break in half and it doesn’t end up being an even number of days, “split the baby,” with one parent getting the morning and the other parent getting the afternoon of the “odd” day.
(9:19) Stefano has seen cases where disputes arise because the parents live in different states and the time zones are different. What does 7 p.m. mean? 7 western time? 7 eastern time? 7 central time?
Tip #4: If you and the other parent live in different time zones, be specific about the time zone you are using.
(10:27) So far, one of the major takeaways of this episode is to be reasonable in case of a holiday parenting plan dispute. If you were on the losing end of a situation, think about how you would want the other parent to treat you and treat him or her that way. Above all, think about the children.
(11:07) The best parenting plans are the ones that the clients never need to use because they are working together. However, it is nice to have a plan (even if you are getting along) in case of a disagreement. If that parenting plan is well-drafted, you can always use it as the fallback option.
(11:39) In terms of specific details of your parenting plan, Tracy believes that it depends on the particular clients whether or not they need to include times for exchanges. Even if you do include times in your plan, however, remember to be flexible with the other parent. Sometimes flights are delayed, sometimes people are running late and sometimes they just need a break!
(13:09) Speaking of out of town travel, Stefano has specific tips. He thinks you should pay attention to detail so just in case a problem arises, people have something (the parenting plan) to go back to. He thinks out of town notification requirements should have to be done IN WRITING. Also, Stefano recommends putting a reasonable time period on notifying the other parent of anticipated out of town travel. (This might help with reducing travel costs, too!) Again, remember to be flexible!
Tip #5: For out of town travel, include provisions requiring both parties to give notice a certain number of days in advance.
(15:21) In some cases, there is a conflict between the parties’ vacation or travel dates. People can avoid this by giving one party priority on their selected dates one year, then giving the other party priority the next year. This is a simple way to avoid this issue.
Tip #6: Draft parenting plans so one parent gets priority in choosing vacation dates in odd years, and the other parent gets priority in choosing vacation dates in even years.
(16:57) Tip #7: Wendy suggests that for summer breaks, the parties choose a date well before summer as the deadline to exchange proposed travel/vacation plans.
(17:36) It is reasonable to ask the other parent information about where the other parent will be staying during out of town travel, what the flight times/numbers are, as well as for a telephone number. Remember- you don’t need to overkill and require exact times when a person will be one place or another in any given day. General information is more than enough.
Tip #8: Make the exchange of itinerary/lodging arrangements and contact info mandatory according to your parenting plan.
(17:58) If both parents are staying in the same town during the holidays and one parent has to work during his/her designated holiday, this could present a problem as far as where the kids will be. If this is the case (and you are the “working” parent), you might want to consider offering “your” holiday to the other parent (who doesn’t have to work) as a show of good faith. Remember, holidays are a time of family and togetherness. You might be able to get a different day in exchange!
(20:40) Similarly, if you have to work during “your” holiday, but you have “other” family (grandparents) who want to spend time with your children, it is a really tough situation. Both sides are probably very emotional over this. Stefano strongly suggests working together so the “other” family members can spend time with the children if it is really important to the non-working parent to spend time with the children (while the other parent is working during his or her holiday time).
(22:17) If you have older children, ask them where they want to spend the holiday. If they can drive, maybe they can split the day up among everyone who wants to see them.
Tip #9: If you have to work during “your” holiday, consider giving it to the other parent (if s/he doesn’t have to work.)
Tip #10: If there are “other” family members who want to see the kids, consider working out a special day for this to happen.
(22:36) This raises the concept known as “the right of first refusal.” What “the right of first refusal” is is a parent’s right to have “first dibs” on any dates/times when the other parent can’t be with the children during his/her regularly scheduled time for a certain minimum number of hours (that you agree upon or that the judge orders). In coming up with a minimum number of hours that a parent will be away from the children before “the right of first refusal” becomes applicable, think about the ages of the children, how far you live from the other parent, how long the kids would spend traveling, etc.
Tip #11: “The right of first refusal” helps parents avoid conflicts that arise over one party sending kids to a “babysitter” during his/her parenting time, rather than to the other “available” parent.
(23:53) Next, keep in mind that in most cases, holiday parenting plans supersede (or take priority over) regular parenting time plans. In some cases, this could result in one parent having 3 weekends in a row. If this is the situation (and it bothers one or both parents) work with each other to swap a weekend.
Tip #12: Write it into your parenting plan that holidays supersede the regular parenting time schedule.
(25:26) Birthdays (for the parents and children)….hmmm…. Holidays? It depends on the parties.
Whatever you decide, you should include birthdays in your holiday parenting plan as opposed to leaving them out altogether. Some parties simply agree that the regular parenting schedule applies on birthdays. For the kid, this might actually be good (it could mean 2 birthday parties!). If you do consider birthdays holidays, you run the risk of birthdays conflicting with “major” holidays (as described above).
Tip #13: The holidays are what you want them to be whether they are birthdays, Super Bowl Sunday or something else. Regardless of what those holidays are, include them in your holiday parenting plan, and keep the number of exchanges/times as simple and consistent as possible.
(29:03) Tip #14: If you want to make special provisions for three day weekends, consider a parenting time plan that allows the parent who had the kids during the preceding weekend to keep them on that Monday holiday.
(30:16) As a final takeaway, Stefano urges you to put the kids first. Be respectful of and fair with the other parent. Always.
(31:17) Tracy suggests planning ahead going into the holidays by sending an e-mail a couple of months in advance. This avoids “last minute” issues or worse, the police being involved on Christmas morning. If there is a dispute and you address it early, then you have plenty of time to work it out!
3. Thoughts From the Life Coach (33:02)
Today James talks a little Marilyn Monroe.
How you accept other peoples’ mistakes and idiosyncrasies says a lot about your character. This will probably go a long way when YOU aren’t feeling quite yourself, too!
Today’s thought is a life lesson in understanding.