While it seems like summer is just ending and the school year is still young, the truth is the holiday season is right around the corner. This is especially true if you want to enforce or modify your custody and timesharing agreement so you can get the holiday time you want with your child this year. Remember, things take time to make it through the courts, especially during this pandemic. That’s why you need to file a motion with the court no later than the beginning of October if you want the issue resolved in time for Christmas and Thanksgiving.  

Talk To The Other Parent 

Your first step should be communicating your holiday plans with the other parent as early as possible. Even if you don’t expect them to approve, it’s always best to try to stipulate to something outside of court. In the military, we are taught to try and resolve conflicts and issues at the lowest level. This simplifies the problem and usually leads to more efficient action. I think this is equally true of co-parenting relationships. If you can solve things between yourselves, do it. It can be cheaper and can help build that post-divorce relationship that is needed for successful co-parenting. However, even if you can come to an agreement with your ex, it is best to stipulate to an order or motion so that the change can be recognized and enforced by the court. Word of mouth agreements just creates an opportunity for stress and drama down the road. If you do not yet have a custody agreement or parenting plan in place, do so immediately. Co-parenting without one almost never ends well and in case an issue arises it can take considerably longer to get relief from the court if you need to start from scratch. Furthermore, law enforcement and the courts will be unable to help you in the event there is a custody dispute if there is no order in place. 

File A Motion

If communication isn’t an option or it fails, you can always file a motion to modify the parenting plan and timesharing agreement. Generally speaking, this is a great option if there has been a material change in circumstances since the original parenting plan was entered, or the current plan simply doesn’t work for your family anymore. For example, given the current public health situation, you may have legitimate reasons for not wanting your children to travel out of state. You can always petition the court to modify the holiday timesharing to reflect these new circumstances. Keep in mind that New Mexico Family Law courts use the standard of “best interests of the child” when making any custody determinations. Every case is different so generally speaking, its best to contact a local custody attorney to understand what options you have and what the best approach is for you to get the timesharing you want. 

Plan Ahead

If you already have a custody agreement in place, you should still plan your holiday season well in advance. For example, if you want to take your children to visit grandma and grandpa out of state, you will likely need the other parents’ permission. Check the order to see if there is already a provision for out of state travel. It’s always best to get written permission from the child’s other parent when taking your children out of state as it is usually mandated in the parenting plan and also protects you from potential legal repercussions. When traveling with your children, you should always provide the other parent with an itinerary and accommodation details. This isn’t about your ex knowing what you’re doing but about them knowing what their children are doing. You should also provide your children with a way to communicate with the other parent during your trip. If you feel like communication is too frequent or burdensome, agree to certain times in the day when your children can speak with their other parent and try to keep them as informed as possible. Sending pics and updates will always be appreciated (and will hopefully be reciprocated). 

What If My Ex Violates The Parenting Plan?

Child custody disputes can get heated over the holidays.  For whatever reason, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, and Summer Vacation can bring out the worst in some with respect to the kids. Many times one of the parents will try to get away with changes to the parenting plan and holiday time-sharing without the agreement of the other parent.  Other times, one or both parties may simply let it be known that plans have been made that disregard the terms of the court endorsed parenting plan. These violations can be very serious for both parties as the courts do not look kindly on misbehavior during the holidays. The possible consequences for violating a parenting plan during the holidays are really no different than any violation at any other time of year.  The difference is that the family court judges are particularly vigilant in the protection of the children during the holidays due to the potential for emotional harm to the children.

The consequences for violation of the parenting plan can include findings of contempt, custodial interference, loss of time-sharing moving forward, and even court-ordered supervised visitation to name just a few. If you fear your ex will not allow you to have your timesharing with the kinds, contact a New Mexico custody attorney right away so can get some personalized advice to put you in the best position possible for any enforcement or modification battle. You and your custody attorney can then decide if a motion to enforce is right for you. If a motion to enforce is also ignored by your ex, they can be found in contempt of court and the consequences could include even jail time. In addition, judges can award you attorneys fees for having to go to court to deal with your ex’s violations. 

What Can I Do?

If you are in a situation where you need to modify your custody agreement or your ex is violating it,  you should seek the assistance of an experienced divorce and family law attorney immediately.  Even though school just started, time runs short during the holidays and it is very difficult to get a quick hearing, especially during COVID-19.  Do not delay.  The Albuquerque Custody Lawyers at Genus Law Group are ready to help with divorce, custody or child support. Unlike the other big firms in town who practice many types of law, Genus Law’s sole focus is family law. Call 505-317-4455 or use our online chat function to start solving your problem, today!

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Guardianship Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond