For divorced couples who are trying to manage their children’s schedules, the holidays provide their own challenges year after year. Typically, parents operating under the Texas Family Code will get their kids on Thanksgiving and for a period of time that includes New Year’s Day one year, and a period of time that includes Christmas the next year. Even in normal years, it can be dissatisfying for both parents.
This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic has added an extra wrinkle. Public health officials have expressed concerns about people gathering over the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, and it’s possible that you and your ex might feel differently about the issue. So, while you might have observed Thanksgiving by yourself to avoid a potential superspreader event, your ex might have taken your kids to a big family gathering and returned them to you at the end of the weekend.
Unless your decree specifically addresses situations like this — and it’s doubtful that decrees written before 2020 factored in pandemics — it’s up to each parent to deem what’s safe and right for the kids while that person has parenting time.
It’s possible to involve a judge in situations that might require makeup time, or in situations where one parent is refusing to let the kids go with the other parent for that parent’s designated time. But judges will typically only get involved after something’s taken place that one parent objects to — for instance, there’s not a judge on standby Thanksgiving day to stop your ex from taking your kids to a big family get-together.
The best thing parents can do, with respect to the holidays and everything else related to co-parenting, is to communicate. If you have reasons for not wanting your kids to attend a big family gathering, or you conversely want your kids to attend a big family gathering, it’s best to discuss your concerns with each other. There might be ways to compromise on what should happen when your kids are with you and with your ex.
If you come to an agreement that involves both parents, including changing parenting time from what’s in the decree, you should create some sort of “paper trail,” even if it’s just an email or a text exchange indicating that both parties agree to the change. If it’s something that only pertains to one party, like agreeing to have the kids wear masks at a family gathering, you might want to send an email summarizing what you discussed to your ex. But even if your ex acknowledges that email, it’s not a legally binding document, and you shouldn’t have that expectation.
What you should expect, and you and your ex should be on the same page about, is making sure that you’re both acting in the best interest of your children. If you’re concerned that’s not the case in your situation, and you’re looking to modify your decree to reflect that, check in with us at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance. We can consult with you on your decree and your current situation to review your options. By getting a head start now, you and your family can be even better prepared for holiday seasons to come.