If you do not yet have a parenting plan because you are still working your way through the process, now is the time to get a temporary parenting plan in place for the holidays. There are several ways to accomplish that goal before the holiday season is in full swing.
Approach the Other Parent
First, try to reach out to the other parent and ask to talk about how you want the children to spend time with each of you during the holidays. Most parents alternate Thanksgiving and the first half of Winter Break. The parent who has the children for Thanksgiving does not have the children on the first day of the holiday that your family celebrates, whether that is Christmas, Chanukah, or some other tradition. Since the Winter Break is typically about two weeks long, many parents split the break in half, with the first half including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and the second half being the last seven or so days of the break. Children whose family celebrates Christmas do not want to switch homes on Christmas Day, so keep that in mind when working on your parenting plan.
Consider a Parenting Plan
If you and the other parent have a difficult time communicating, another option is to create a parenting plan by working with a mental health professional with expertise in child development. A mental health professional can help you and the other parent think of ideas you might not have considered and help you make decisions on parenting time that will be in your children’s best interests.
Consider Working with a Mediator
Another option is to work with a mediator to help you agree on how the children will spend their time. The mediator is a neutral third party who can help with the communication between the parents so that a parenting plan agreement can be reached. You can attend mediation without an attorney, although we recommend that your attorney be available. Do some research to find a good mediator. Some are better than others, and you want to use someone who is knowledgeable about Georgia’s child custody laws as well as the judge before whom your case is pending. Finding a personality that is a good match for both parents will also help increase the likelihood of achieving a good parenting plan.
Consider a Late Case Evaluation
Late case evaluation is another possibility to help you come up with an agreed upon parenting plan within the next few weeks. Late case evaluation is similar to mediation, but you meet with an experienced family law attorney who has a good idea of how a judge will decide a particular set of facts. The late case evaluator does not make a binding decision but is a great reality check for both parents.
High Conflict Situations May Require a Private Arbitrator
If you are in a high conflict litigation situation, you may want to consider hiring a private arbitrator to reach a parenting plan for the holiday season. The arbitrator will make a binding decision for you and the other parent after you present evidence as to what is in the children’s best interests. If you have a case pending in court, enter an arbitration order so there is no misunderstanding of the arbitrator’s authority. You and the other parent will each pay one half of the arbitrator’s hourly rate to hear the evidence and render a decision. Many experienced family law attorneys will sit as an arbitrator on custody issues or all of the issues that you need resolved to reach a conclusion of your legal matter. It is best to have an attorney represent you at arbitration.
Atlanta’s Family Law Attorneys — Richardson Bloom & Lines
RBL Family Law’s partners are uniquely qualified to act as mediators, late case evaluators, and arbitrators. Melody Z. Richardson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and performs late case evaluations at the request of the Fulton County Superior Court Judges. Dan Bloom was a judicial officer for the Fulton County Family Division before joining Richardson Bloom and Lines, and Kyla Lines was the staff attorney for a Fulton County Superior Court Family Division judge before joining the firm. Call our office today to see if one of our attorneys would be a good fit to help you resolve your custody issues before the holidays begin.