The holidays are approaching rapidly, leaving many co-parents longing for more time with their children. If you share custody of your kids with an ex-partner, you may be wondering whether you have the right to change your custody schedule for one or more holidays. Modifying a custody order is possible, but modifying it in time for Thanksgiving, Passover, Christmas or another holiday this year might not work.
The timeline for post-decree modifications
You have the right to petition the court for a modification to your custody schedule, but you need to demonstrate that you have experienced a significant change in your circumstances or that your child’s other parent agrees to the modification. Most family law judges will not agree to modify a custody schedule for a one-time holiday celebration. The conditions for a modification of custody typically include:
- Substantial change in life circumstances
- The current order is no longer practical
- The non-custodial parent has failed to exercise their right to visitation
- The custodial parent moved out-of-state
It also takes months to appear before a judge once you have decided to modify custody. If you want to rearrange your schedule to have the kids with you on Christmas, for example, you might not have your court hearing until May or June of next year.
What if my co-parent violates our order?
Unfortunately, some parents choose to disregard the existing court order by keeping their children with them for a holiday or dropping them off late. If your former partner has done this, you have legal options to enforce your rights as a parent and hold them accountable. You have the right to file a motion for contempt with the court. This civil action holds anyone who violates a court order in contempt of the court. In some cases, the ramifications include garnishment of wages, seizure of assets or even a warrant for their arrest. Extreme? Perhaps, but no one should be able to violate a court-imposed custody order with impunity – especially during the holidays.