I am personally a big fan of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert recently did a hilarious segment on how Thanksgiving and Chanukkah are falling at the same time this year. Entitled, “Thanksgiving Under Attack,” Colbert went onto satirically explain that these two holidays likely will not see each other again for…wait for it…another 80,000 years! While that thought is comforting for many who are not looking forward to having to do their holiday shopping while also planning a massive Thanksgiving feast (i.e., my lovely wife, who is presently devising a way to make turkey-shaped potato latkes at my request), the bigger problem comes for those divorced parents who live and die by a regimented holiday parenting time schedule.
(courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
Taking a look at the schedule this year, is there a conflict between who has parenting time on Thanksgiving/Thanksgiving week and who has parenting time on Chanukkah? In the event of a conflict, whose parenting time controls? Generally, holiday parenting time supercedes so-called “regular” parenting time. Well, what happens when one holiday conflicts with another? While the hope is that parents can amicably resolve these issues, there is the potential for litigation.
In fact, all holiday parenting time – especially at this time of year when a time for thanking and giving may turn into a time of dispute – may result in litigation. Oftentimes, one parent does not want to return the kids at the end of Thanksgiving to the other parent, or the other parent may not want to return the child to the other parent at the end of Christmas Eve. The potential disputes are really endless, especially in cases where the holiday parenting schedule is not so regimented, and leaves the parenting time “open” each year for the parties to hopefully work out on their own. In many such cases, litigation results, and a potential emergency application known as an Order to Show Cause.
For instance, we recently represented a client where his former wife was conditioning an agreement on Thanksgiving on him acceding to her demands for Christmas and New Years. Dad took the kids to see his relatives out of state every year for Thanksgiving, and did not want to let them down. On the other hand, he was being forced to agree to what mom wanted for a subsequent holiday, just to ensure that the kids could keep their annual tradition. While the issue ultimately settled, the point is made, and also highlighted in my recent post where the primary custodial parent uses parenting time as leverage over the non-custodial parent.
Resolving holiday parenting time disputes is undoubtedly in the best interests of the children. The importance of, and emotional attachment to the holidays and spending them with family, however, understandably leads to heated disputes where, oftentimes, the only way to end the dispute is with a judge making the decision.