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Plan for the holidays to avoid last-minute court bottlenecks

It’s never too early to start planning for the holidays when it comes to scheduling parenting duties, says Toronto family lawyer Katherine Robinson.

Separated or divorced parents should attempt to set aside their emotions and consider fairness when deciding who spends time with the children on special occasions, says Robinson, associate with Shulman Law Firm.

“You should have something worked out as far in advance as possible,” Robinson tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The courts can get extremely busy before the holidays, and too many families end up in court at the last minute trying to get an order, she says.

“That’s increased time and cost to deal with a relatively simple issue if handled in advance.”

If parenting schedules during the holidays are not already part of a prior agreement, such as a separation agreement or a court order, parents should determine where the children will spend their holidays, for what portion of the day and whether they will rotate year to year.

“Part of it is fairness,” Robinson says. “You want the children to have fairness of spending equal holiday time with both parents, so someone doesn’t feel like they’re being slighted. It’s a matter of figuring out what is fair for each family, most of all for the children."

For example, it might work for one family if one parent always takes the children on Christmas Eve and the other has the children on Christmas Day, but for another family, it might be more fair to take turns keeping the children on Christmas Day, she says.

During other long weekends, such as the Family Day long weekend, the time might be split by the mother and father so each parent can enjoy celebrations with the children.

“It’s a balancing act, but having those arrangements in place ensures there’s no conflict on the day, or immediately prior,” Robinson says.

While there may be times the children want to have a say in where they go, the age of the children should be taken into consideration, she adds.

“Young children may say certain things but that doesn’t mean that is what’s best for them,” Robinson says. “It’s the parents who make those decisions.”

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