Holiday Visitation Disputes in the COVID-19 Era

If you split shared physical custody of your children with your ex-spouse or former partner, do you have a working agreement regarding holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas? If you do have holiday provisions in your parenting plan or marital settlement agreement, have you also discussed how circumstances may change due to the pandemic? A properly drafted marital settlement agreement or custody order should govern child custody, education, healthcare, tax deductions, as well as which parent spends time with the child on which holiday. Some parents choose to alternate holidays like Christmas every other year, or even and odd years. Other parents might “give up” one holiday to reserve another. For example, one parent might always have News Year’s Eve while the other spends New Year’s Day with the child. Regardless of your individual preferences, it is important to adhere to the provisions of the Marital Settlement Agreement or Parentage Judgment.

What happens during a second surge of a global pandemic? How can you be sure your ex’s family are using face masks or adhering to current safety protocols? What if one parent is not comfortable with their child being around extended family, but it is the other parent’s year to host Christmas? Even worse, what if one parent is high-risk, confirmed COVID-positive, or refuses to get tested? If you are faced with a similar dilemma and are unsure of your options this holiday season, it is important you call an attorney to review your options and assure your child’s best interests are pursued. Our Sacramento-based attorneys at Hughes Law Group specialize in child custody and visitation disputes, including preparation for emergency holiday custody hearings.

Options for Resolution

If a dispute cannot be resolved amicably, it may be necessary to bring an application for emergency orders with a family law judge to decide on holiday custody.  A consultation with the attorneys at Hughes Law Group is an opportunity to express your custodial concerns and questions before presenting an emergency Request for Orders and Proposed Temporary Orders to the family law judge. Our attorneys can draft the application and notify the other party of the opportunity to prepare a response and attend the emergency hearing. While parents should try to work together collaboratively regarding their child’s welfare, it is not uncommon for holiday disputes to arise. Do not delay in seeking a written order of resolution. The judge might recommend that both parents share the day, split in half, one parent gets Christmas Eve, or that extended family obtain a negative test result prior to spending the day with the child. The judge will ask for suggestions from the parties, but ultimately they seek a resolution that best preserves the child’s safety and best interests.

Embrace Virtual Opportunities

Virtual communication platforms like Zoom and Facetime can be utilized to schedule live group calls, video-conferencing and even shared family meals, albeit virtually. Families can also send gifts in advance to be opened simultaneously on a group call or chat, or create new ideas and traditions to embrace the holiday spirit. Even if families cannot be together face to face, it does not mean they cannot share the day together. Parents should not be made to feel guilty or selfish for making decisions to protect the safety of their children. While it remains a personal choice for some people, remember that meeting with extended family and friends is only relatively safe if all parties involved have quarantined for at least 10 days prior or tested negative for COVID-19.

Schedule a Consultation Today

If you are stressed out about holiday plans, sharing the day or spending time with loved ones in a high-risk, indoor environment, you are not alone. Many families are faced with difficult decisions to make. Remember that your child’s health and safety are paramount. Yes, the holidays only come once a year, but making sacrifices this year means saving lives so that we may share time with loved ones in the future. If you are dealing with combativeness or stalemate from your child’s other parent regarding your child’s holiday visitation plans, please contact Hughes Law Group for assistance. We will work swiftly and efficiently to ensure your child’s best interest and safety are observed. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your options.

Holiday Visitation Disputes in the COVID-19 Era