Changing Custody Arrangements For a Holiday Celebration

Getting divorced is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful things you can experience in life, and sharing minor children with your spouse only makes the process more difficult. It may seem like you are through the fire once you have a parenting plan ironed out with your ex-spouse. But life is unpredictable, and you never know when the parenting plan in place won’t work for one or both parents or the child. A common example of when custody plans may need to be changed, even if only temporarily, is the winter holidays. Regardless of the holidays they celebrate, most families deviate from their normal schedule at least a little bit during this time of year. If you have a custody arrangement in the state of Arizona, you should be aware of your responsibilities as far as complying with your parenting plan. For your free consultation with experienced Arizona family attorneys, call 480-680-9126.

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Holidays In Arizona Custody Orders

Holidays typically aren’t treated like any other day in Arizona custody orders. They hold emotional weight and the time off from work and school provides the opportunity to engage in activities that are out of the ordinary. Some holidays will be switched off between the parents- for example, each parent may have Halloween or Thanksgiving with the child every other year. The parents might get parenting time with the child on their own birthday each year, but switch off the child’s birthday every other year as well. If one parent celebrates a holiday but the other parent doesn’t, the first parent should be given parenting time on that holiday. But there can also come times when it is one parent’s turn for a holiday and they are unable to fulfill their responsibilities, or it’s not their year with the child but this year’s holiday will include extra special celebrations or guests. Here, the parents may need to make an informal modification to their parenting plan. The parents can even agree to split physical custody of the child on a holiday- e.g., the child spends Christmas morning with the mother and Christmas evening with the father. 

Arizona parenting plans are serious and should be executed accurately. However, family law judges know that life is complicated and there will sometimes need to be slight deviations from the parenting plan. While the judge should be aware of any significant non-compliance with the parenting plan, judges also appreciate parents who only bring disputes to court if they absolutely need to. If the parents need to switch off two holidays, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, doing so informally will work out fine for most. Detailing the custody deviation in writing, such as an email, can provide extra support for a parent who is concerned about not following the parenting plan. 

In a perfect world, a child’s parents would co-parent compassionately and show each other respect and flexibility. However, the holidays are important to many people, and they may not be willing to compromise during the season of giving. Ultimately, the parents should follow the parenting plan if one parent wants to make a change for the holidays but the other parent doesn’t agree. Failure to comply with a parenting plan can have serious consequences and even hurt that parent’s position in future custody proceedings. Your custody lawyer may have strategies to help negotiate a resolution that works well for everyone involved. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced divorce attorney, call 480-680-9126

Major Holidays For Parenting Plans

Formulating an ideal parenting plan is all about figuring out which issues are your top priorities. Holidays are no exception, so pick your battles based on which celebrations matter the most to you. Some of the holidays you may need to predetermine in your parenting plan include:

  • Christmas and Christmas Eve
  • Thanksgiving
  • Halloween
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Hannukah
  • Easter
  • Eid al-Adha
  • Passover
  • Father’s and Mother’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve and Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Labor Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Veteran’s Day

Formal Custody Modifications

If your custody agreement or parenting plan no longer serves your family well, it may be time for a custody modification. Even if both parents agree to the change, it can be helpful to have that change formalized in writing and with the court. A custody agreement can be amended, but it may be an uphill battle to convince the court to grant a modification to change a parenting plan for one holiday alone. The court will usually require a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to grant a custody modification. Custody modifications in Arizona are governed by A.R.S. § 25-411. Generally, a custody modification can only be granted once the custody orders have been in place for 12 months, and only once every 12 months moving forward. However, custody can be modified at any time unless the child’s current environment is endangering their physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. A parent can also request a modification after 6 months if the other parent is failing to comply with the custody order. If you require additional information about custody modifications in the state of Arizona, contact us for your free consultation by calling 480-680-9126

Physical vs. Legal Custody

Physical custody refers to the physical time that a parent spends with and is responsible for their child. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions for their child, like where they go to school or which medical treatments they receive. One parent can still have legal custody of a child while the child is in the other parent’s care or physical custody. Arizona courts prefer to give parents joint custody of shared children, whenever possible. However, doing so must be in the child’s best interest. The factors that Arizona family law judges are instructed to analyze when determining a child’s best interests are set forth by A.R.S. § 25-403. They include the child’s relationships with the parents and other household members, the child’s adjustment to each household, and whether each parent is likely to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent or interfere with it. These factors can affect both physical and legal custody in Arizona. If you have additional questions about physical or legal custody in Arizona, call 480-680-9126 for your free consultation with our firm. 

Make Sure You Have An Experienced Legal Professional In Your Corner For Arizona Custody Disputes

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year, but they can also be stressful. Part of creating special memories for your child may mean working through disagreements with your child’s other parent. Many co-parents require their legal representatives to resolve issues and move forward from custody disputes. Going into a custody situation without a skilled family law attorney can automatically put you at a disadvantage. At AZ Family Law Lawyers, we work tirelessly every day to make sure our clients exit legal issues with positive solutions that work for their families. See the difference our legal team can make for your unique circumstances. To get started with your free consultation contact us or call 480-680-9126.

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