Three helpful tips to avoid the holiday access blues!

Holidays, such as this weekend’s Thanksgiving, can be times of great family joy and celebration. But for separated or divorced parents holidays can often be times of great sadness and disappointment.

In fact as a family lawyer I’ve found most court applications for access usually precede holidays such as summer, or Christmas holidays.

So here are three helpful tips to hopefully keep you and your ex out of court.

First, and foremost, you should ensure, (whatever the agreed access) that the holiday access terms are accurately set out in a court order, Separation Agreement, or other legally enforceable written agreement.

 I know what some of you will say. “I’m on great terms with my ex and we’ve never had any issues around holiday access”.

You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you; unfortunately, it is unlikely that this state of holiday access nirvana will persist indefinitely.

Whether it has to do with your or her “new” partner, or something else, far better to have holiday access terms that you can legally enforce, if necessary, rather than relying on (now) non-existent goodwill.

Secondly, DON”T ACCEPT the phrase “reasonable and generous access”,   (unless modified as set out below.) to describe your holiday access. That’s because such holiday access is virtually impossible to enforce, since your interpretation of “reasonable and generous” may be one half of any holidays, while your ex believes one day during the holidays is “reasonable and generous”.

Remember, if you and your ex can’t agree on a certain interpretation it will be left to your judge to figure out holiday access, always a potentially risky (and totally unnecessary) gamble.

Thirdly, to minimize holiday access disputes you should include what is known as “specified access”. This means clarifying the holiday access terms, for example does it mean the school Christmas holidays, ie two weeks, or just the statutory holiday?

In addition, if there are other holidays or occasions of special importance to you and your new family, ie Fathers/Mother’s day, children’s birthdays, etc, these special occasions should also be defined.

Follow these three tips and you’ll improve your chances of avoiding the holiday blues!