And the good news is that this method works even if you don’t have a lawyer.
Step 1: Review Blank Custody Order/Agreement
Many people who’re new to world of custody disputes don’t even realize that they need to do this step before they head to court. And that’s why a lot of people who try to get agreements end up failing – they’re simply missing this crucial step.
So, the first thing you need to do is go to the court house and see the blank custody forms. They will tell you what areas you should be concerned with when crafting your first custody order/agreement.
You’ll find that this part of the process goes much more smoothly if you apply these tips and tricks:
- Know your schedule and when you are most flexible
- Keep the child’s activities and schooling at the forefront of your mind
- Consider what holidays and traditions matter most to your family
- Make sure your lawyer knows what your most important values are
Once you’ve taken a look at blank agreements and order, and thought about your values, then you can move on to the next step…
Step 2: Make a detailed plan
The next thing you need to do is make a very detailed custody plan. When many people first started their custody case, they made a lot of mistakes. Now that I’ve helped hundreds of others do it, I see a lot of people have a tendency to make the same mistakes. So let me share with you the top mistakes and how to avoid them:
- Not being specific about time, place, and people doing pick-ups and drop-offs
- Not leaving enough flexibility for emergency situations
- Forgetting to consider the child’s age, activities and willingness to travel
- Forgetting to update the plan to include dates that are special to your family.
Most of these common mistakes can be avoided by proper planning. Before deciding on an elaborate custody plan, talk to your attorney about what works and what pitfalls are common to each type of plan.
Step 3: Get to Court early
At this step you’re likely to notice that your previous plans haven’t worked and you are in a crunch situation. The one thing you don’t want to do is panic, or worse yet, violate a custody order. So, what you need to do is get to court quickly. Do not wait until the last minute!
I still remember one time when I was planning to leave work early to bake cookies with my young children. I had pushed through most of my work and planned a leisurely day until I got a frantic call from a client. His ex-wife was threatening to take the kids away before Christmas and he was afraid he would miss his scheduled holiday time. I quickly filed an Emergency Petition and got a date the day before the courts closed for the holidays. After speaking with him, I discovered that this wasn’t a new issue. She had told him of her plans months ago, but he hadn’t agreed. She thought he was being unreasonable denying the kids a trip when he knew months ago. He thought she was being unreasonable planning a trip that interfered with his time. I learned from this, and other cases, that there are some ways to prevent this last minute dash to the courthouse.
- Discuss the Holiday plan with the other parent as soon as possible. Don’t just assume you are all on the same plan.
- If there is a disagreement, put it in writing via letter, text, or e-mail and ask that he/she put their understanding in writing as well.
- Call your lawyer early in the dispute and be prepared to have the lawyer handle it if you can’t make a written agreement quickly. It is not fair, nor is it wise to wait until the last minute. Your children should have some security about where they will spend the holiday.
And there you have it – a simple 3 step method for divorced parents to reduce their holiday stress. Now that you know how to negotiate this thorny issue, there’s just one thing left for you to do: take action.
So get to it, and soon you too will sail through the holiday custody without a care in the world!