Mediating/Arbitrating Holiday and Custody Schedules

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Custody battles Ga-lore
My son doesn’t want to go
His Father is a Schmo
My daughter says his Wife is nothing but a bore…
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
My lawyer is a Schmuck
He says my child has to be away
For Christmas Eve he cannot stay
Or I’ll being in contempt, in jail and really out of luck…..”

The holidays are approaching and it’s time to think about custody concerns you may have. One thing that is synonymous with the holidays are the disagreements which arise over the implementation and interpretation of Custody schedules or, if you have no Order, sharing custody time over the holidays. Often, these disagreements do not surface until just before the Thanksgiving or Christmas Holidays are around the corner.

Then, what do you do? You and the other parent may consider mediating the custody schedule, because now that it is November, having a court hearing scheduled may not be a reality.

Here are common statements by two parents:

Dad says that “Thanksgiving means from the morning of Thanksgiving until the following day, because his family lives in Scranton.”

Mom says, “The Custody Order says Thanksgiving Day and that means

Thursday only.”

Dad says, “When we were together as a Family we always stayed overnight in Scranton on Thanksgiving and you know that”.

Mom says, “Well, we’re not together now, are we? You should have thought of that before you slept with that woman.”

So, what do you do? If Dad stays overnight in Scranton, with the kids, might he be in contempt of the order? Does he want to take that risk? If there is no order, how do you possibly resolve this dilemma in time for the holiday season?

Contrary to what you might think, this is not an “emergency” in the eyes of the Court. There is no threat of physical harm to the children and no one is fleeing permanently with the children. There simply is no time to file a standard Petition to Modify and get into Court before the Holiday.

Mediation and Arbitration are excellent alternatives to Court intervention.

In Arbitration, the parties decide to meet with an experienced attorney, who has been trained in Arbitration. The parties agree in writing to accept the decision of the Arbitrator for this Holiday season. An Arbitrator makes a decision, much like a Judge. A Mediator, on the other hand, assists the parents in making the decision themselves.

Once the mediation or arbitration is over, the parties can file a Petition to Modify the Order with the Court and make the arbitration decision or the mediation agreement an Order of Court.

Lee Schwartz is a trained arbitrator and mediator. Let us know if we can help.

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