Holiday Access Blues

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!





T’was The Night before Christmas…

Keeping the spirit of Christmas access alive!

With the holidays approaching, there is one sad reality which has become a Christmas tradition.  Namely, the flood of court applications by parents throughout the province, and assuredly the rest of the country, fighting over Christmas access. 

Undoubtedly, there are good reasons in certain situations to restrict or deny Christmas access to a parent, particularly, if the safety of the children is at risk.  However, there are undoubtedly many more situations which are principally motivated by one parent’s animosity towards the other, rather than for any other legitimate reason.

As a consequence, it is invariably the children caught in the middle of access battles between feuding parents who suffer the most.  I’m asking at this time of year, if this sounds like you and your spouse, that you put aside your personal feelings for one another, and think of your children. 

Children need and deserve the care and attention of two loving parents.  Who knows, perhaps this co-operation will continue the rest of the year.  It’s certainly the most valuable and most loving gift your children will ever receive.

With apologies to the original author, I have penned the following alternative version of this Christmas classic.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Courts,
Applications were piling, with time running short;
Frantic parents consumed in a flurry of faxes,
With lawyers and spouses all disputing Christmas access.

No stockings yet hung by the chimney with care,
Since no children would be coming,
No cheer in the air.

When out of Judges’ Chambers there arose such a clatter,
I rose from my chair, to see what was the matter;
He was dressed in all black, as he bounded the stairs,
And I knew when I saw him, his judgments were fair.

He surveyed all before him, and pronounced while he sat,
That children deserve access, it’s as simple as that;
Now is not the time to argue and fight,
Over which parent is more loving, more deserving, or right,

And perhaps this trend will continue the rest of the year;
With children and parents sharing love that most dear.

And after such wisdom, the Judge sprang to his feet,
To return to his Chambers until next time we meet.
But I heard him exclaim as he turned out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, treasure your children tonight!”