Co-parenting with your ex-spouse in the month of December can be like navigating a minefield. There is something about the emotions of the season, the emphasis on family time, the time off school, the expectations of extended family members, and the importance of certain days during this month that make sharing parenting time in December really difficult for some families. The tension that parenting over the holidays creates impacts the children more than some parents realize.
As family lawyers we try to check in with our clients in September or October to find out if they need any assistance working out parenting time in December. If you have waited until the second week of December to figure out parenting time on the 25th, for most cases it will be too late to start the process of bringing on an application in court in time for Christmas. Remember that the court is closed to all but emergency applications from December 17 to January 3.
That said, it’s almost never too late to reach a negotiated agreement with your ex regarding parenting over the holidays. A parenting plan can be comprehensive and apply all year, or it can be limited to a certain period of time. Having a plan for the holidays in writing is very helpful to remind the parties of what they agreed to. It can help reduce conflict between the parents, which in turn helps the kids have a stress-free, enjoyable holiday with both sides. A parenting plan that is signed by both parties in the presence of a witness is enforceable, meaning that if one of the parties breaches the plan the other can seek relief in court by way of make-up-parenting time, fines, and other sanctions.
The Department of Justice has some useful resources on its website to assist people in developing their plans for parenting over the holidays. For a Parenting Plan Checklist, click here: http://justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/parent/ppc-lvppp/index.html. We recommend checking in with a family lawyer for independent legal advice before entering into a parenting plan.