Child Custody During the Holidays: Who Gets the Kids for Christmas?

What Does South Carolina Say About Child Custody Around the Holidays?

If you’re in the process of getting a divorce or have already been divorced but didn’t address child custody, the holiday season can become an especially stressful period. While it’s generally advisable for a divorce order to address issues such as child custody and visitation over the holidays, the truth is that many don’t know to or don’t plan ahead for these busy times of the year.

For those that do have a custody order or custody agreement in place, the first place to look at the language of the order itself. South Carolina has a standard template for shared holidays known as Judge Brown Standard Visitation Schedule which often applies to shared custody or simple visitation.

For a variety of reasons, one or more portions of the Judge Brown Standard may not be followed in your case, so it’s important to look at your child custody agreement or custody order rather than rely on the online version (Note: this is sometimes found in your divorce order, if divorce and custody were dealt with at the same time).

Child custody dispute around the holidays leaving the child alone

Regardless of which category you fall into, there are a few tips to making sure your children are protected and develop new, positive memories for the holidays.

Steps to Having a Smoother Holiday Child Custody Schedule

  1. Review your co-parenting or visitation plan ahead of time

The vast majority of parenting decisions involving children come down to one thing: communication. Whether it’s as simple as choosing which days the kids spend with each parent or as complicated as holiday vacations around new life partners, communicating expectations early can save everyone involved from a lot of stress later.

  1. Don’t miss out on special dates in your children’s lives

While it may seem simpler to avoid confrontation with a spouse or confusion with your child, missing out on those special holidays, birthdays, or events in life is often just as problematic. Not only do you want to be there to share those moments with your child, you also want to avoid creating a pattern of missed important dates should child custody come in front of the court later.

  1. Be careful with what you say in front of children and who they spend time with

Many child custody agreements or orders have restraining orders that restrict one parent from making negative comments about the other in front of the children. Often, child custody agreements and custody orders will have a “paramour clause” as well, stating that new life partners cannot be introduced to the children without the other party’s consent.

Even if you don’t believe it will get back to the other parent, this can cause confusion, stress, and (eventually) used against you if custody goes back in front of the court. This may even extend to telling your family and friends to avoid the conversation of your ongoing divorce or former spouse while the children are present.

  1. Consider shared holidays or virtual holiday parenting time

While this requires both parents to be amicable and isn’t suitable for every situation, shared holidays can provide a much smoother transition for children as they grow accustomed to a new divorce.

Whether it’s maintaining old holiday traditions or just making sure that the children get to experience the special day with both parents via Zoom, a scheduled and structured plan to share certain hours can remind children that they are loved by both parents despite not being able to spend the whole day together. This can range from a Thanksgiving breakfast between former spouses and children to a Christmas night movie tradition over Zoom, as long as it’s planned and maintains boundaries for both sides.

What if the other side isn’t following the Custody Order or Child Custody Agreement?

If your former spouse isn’t complying with a custody Order, you may be able to file a motion known as a Rule to Show Cause. A Rule to Show Cause (RTSC) essentially drags both parties in front of the court to establish whether an Order was violated and, if so, was there sufficient reason to do so.

If you don’t have an Order, but rather an agreement that is either by mutual understanding or something as informal as text, a RTSC is not appropriate. Instead, it may be time to consider filing for the Court to establish a new custody Order. Once an Order is signed off on by the Court, your protections and your children’s protection become far more enforceable.

Contact Sentinel Law

If you’re concerned about enforcing your parenting time for the holidays and live in Spartanburg or Greenville, don’t hesitate to reach out. At Sentinel Law Firm, our experienced attorneys work hard to help our clients protect their rights. To learn more, reach out today to talk about your case.

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