Divorce and Child Custody during the holidays can be a really difficult time for families that have recently been broken up as a result of a divorce or even when families begin blending together for the next chapters in their lives.
Attorney Leslie Barrows discusses Divorce and Child Custody issues, topics and keys to look for during the holidays in an effort to make the holidays enjoyable for all family members, especially the children.
For more information about Divorce and Child Custody During The Holidays issues or questions, contact The Barrows Firm at 817-481-1583 or online at https://barrowsfirm.com.
Welcome to the Barrows Firm podcast today, we’re going to be talking about divorce and child custody during the holidays. We’re here today with Leslie Barrows as always. When it comes to that, how are you going to approach or how should a parent approach that topic of divorce during that first holiday, especially when you’re going through that divorce period?
Leslie Barrows (00:21):
Well, of course it it’s tough when you have a pending case during the holidays, for sure. I know I’m working with families for you know, over over 10 years, we’ve heard all kinds of stories. So I think your, your first step would be to make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page. That if it’s a topic where, you know, you’re going to say that, you know, it, we, mom and dad are going through this situation. It’s not something where the children should be involved in, but that, you know, mom and dad are going to going to their relationship’s not working, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t love you. We, we love you. A lot of families too, we’ll seek mental health or, or a therapist to make sure that you know, they discuss this correctly with their children because it is a really touchy subject.
It depends on you know, the age of the kids. And if you have college kids, I mean, it’s even really tough on them because that’s, you know, their mom and dad and their relationship is all they’ve known for a long time. So I think it depends on the age of the children. But you know, the children that are under 18 and say, you know, we have a simple divorce we’re going through and the couple has children. Then usually there’s already going to be injunctions in place saying, Hey, let’s not talk about the case and litigation, but we can talk about, you know, that mom and dad aren’t going to be together. And that usually people are separating and getting their own their own home. So that’s, that’s kind of a practice tip of, of how to talk to the children. And if you think that you need some kind of help with how to go about talking with that with your children, then you would go to maybe a therapist or someone at church to, to help you along as well. That’s trained to be able to talk to children about, you know relationships that are splitting up. And you’re going through a divorce right now.
When you do bring this up with the children, how deep do you kind of take the subject on that? Because obviously the children at some point are going to know that there’s a divorce occurring. So how deep would you go with them on, on that subject
Leslie Barrows (02:40):
It’s really going to be ages three and up, I would think, and the kids all the way up until high school. So as far as approaching it usually if you can, you would talk maybe at the home or maybe in private with the other spouse, if you guys along. But a lot of people don’t get along. So that’s why they’re getting divorced, but I mean, I’ve met lots of families where they did get along and they told the, the children together that, Hey, mom and dad are, or, you know, are not gonna be married, but we’re still going to continue with with loving you and raising you guys together. But if you don’t get along then it’s, it’s another topic, usually one parent tells tells the child, Hey you know, daddy’s not in the house cause you know, dad’s moved out, we’re not getting along. So I think that it really just depends on the situation and where you guys are in the process, but of course communication is key to to making sure that you guys are on the same page while you have this the divorce case opened during the holiday season. For sure.
So if you do have that divorce case open during the holiday season, do you have any kind of tips or recommendations for that time period?
Leslie Barrows (04:02):
Every family has their own Christmas traditions, but if you’ve been involved in you know, you’ve had the same tradition of, you know Christmas morning or Christmas Eve, well, make new traditions, you know, if you have a relative and you know, maybe you’re still going through a divorce and you’re living in the same home, then maybe you know, you travel somewhere and you take the kids. If it’s, if you guys have, have worked that out, go see a relative or go on an adventure and make a new start, making a new tradition and getting used to you know, spending time alone. Because I mean, when you are going through a divorce, it is tough because there’s probably been someone who’s been the primary parent. I would also say don’t make any new introductions of if you’re dating someone well, that’s, that’s good for you, but during the holidays and if you have children and you’re in basically the parents are going through a divorce, I would say no new introductions of people that you’re dating or, you know, don’t introduce your new girlfriend or boyfriend. I think that there’s going to be an appropriate time for that, but during the holidays is not, is not the time to do that.
Once we kind of go through that divorce phase and, and everything kind of gets taken care of- when it comes to holiday seasons in that time frame, how, how does that schedule work?
Leslie Barrows (05:27):
The most standard language that we see under the family code is of course we would have Thanksgiving. So that would be the custodial parent would have the even year. So it’s usually years. So whoever has whoever has the child the most, which would be the custodial parent you’d have even years. And then the non-custodial parent would have the odd years for Thanksgiving. And then for Christmas, the the custodial parent would have the number year and then the non-custodial parent would have the even number year. So, and, and that’s designed so, you know, one person would have Thanksgiving and then and then of course Christmas would be with the other the other parents, so they can get some time as well. And most of the decrees that we see if the families they usually follow that. I mean, I’ve had some couples where they say, well, we always like Thanksgiving, and then you always have Christmas. So if you’ve agreed to that and it’s in writing, then, then, then they have that in their decree. So I would look at your final decree of divorce and see what’s in there, but that’s usually the standard under the Texas family code for possession and access during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
What do they do If there’s no order. So if they’ve had a divorce that was maybe a divorce where they, they mutually agreed upon some things, but there was no real order done for child support or maybe it’s a pre-divorce and there, there’s just not an order yet. How do they work that out?
Leslie Barrows (07:06):
Yeah, usually if you, if you, so if you weren’t married and you don’t have an order usually what happens is that you would have to communicate with the other side about you know, what’s what you’ve agreed to. And so I think that communication would be key if you don’t have an order in place you know, you, but you have to communicate, you can’t just come and pick up the kiddo from, from daycare and take the child out of state or do something crazy like that. So I think that for sure, the communication is, is key, especially if you don’t have an order, which, and if you don’t, I would recommend that you get one just so you can have something in black and white that says this is the holiday schedule, and this is what we would do going forward just for the stability of the family. But, you know, there’s all kinds of orders that we see too. Cause you know some grandparents raised their, their grandkids and they split custody with, with parents. So we have seen all kinds of orders as far as you know, handling the kids at, at the holidays for sure.
Is it difficulty to set up some kind of order or custody for, for that time? If there was no prior marriage?
Leslie Barrows (08:24):
If you don’t have a court order and you don’t really want to go back to court, then you probably need to put everything in writing and emails or letters with the other side, for sure. If you don’t have an order. And also things change, you know, with people have kids and then a lot of people get remarried, so you’ll have the blended families as well. And you know, so you could have, you know, dad remarries and, and, you know, the new wife has children and they all want to be on the schedule. So I’ve seen couples where I’m on the blended families that, that, you know, it can be challenging of course, to have a blended family, but the, the parties do work it out and get together and make sure that everybody’s on the same schedule of if mom, if dad remarries and, and has has kids. And so does this new new wife or the other way around. So it does work. And if, sometimes we will go back to court and do modifications of orders if you’re wanting that. And usually the parties seem to agree on, on those, those arrangements, for sure.
I know sometimes we come upon the holidays and maybe this year, you know, everything went normal, but let’s say next year, you know, I have a big trip or something planned but it’s not my year to have the children during the holiday season. So if, if there are some kind of special circumstances or things that come up like that what is kind of the procedure for, for working that out or figuring out how that works?
Leslie Barrows (10:00):
Well, we do see that. So if you know, there’s a death in the family then usually they’ll the parties will put that in writing and however they communicate usually text or email is what we see a lot. And you know, I would not, you know, prepay your vacation to Disney if it’s not your time for sure, but I would make sure that you communicate with the other side and if weddings, things like that the, the couples will switch time. So they’ll say, okay, well I’ll get another weekend or I’ll get more time in this summer to make sure that I get my equal, equal time with, with the kids. So I would, you know, it just really depends on your relationship with the other side. And if they’re, if they’re willing to work with you, because if, if that’s something you want to do is, you know, you want to take the family on a trip and it’s not your time. Then you’re going to have to give up something- you’re going to have to give up the Thanksgiving, or you’re going to have to give up you know, another weekend. And if you can’t work it out, usually we, that’s not really a reason to go back to court to modify your, your custody order. So, you know, it’s not like you can call an attorney and go, Hey, I need to go have the judge order. You know, the, my ex spouse to allow me to go to Disney, they’re really not gonna care.
You mentioned blended families a little bit earlier. And you gave a couple of tips, any additional things that you’d like to cover for blended families.
Leslie Barrows (11:28):
I always tell ’em step parents to back to back out and to not try to take control of situations and try to change things if, if they’re new to the family and their step mom or dad that seems to create a lot of conflict. And I, I think that, you know, with blended families, it takes so many years of, of blending and making sure that the, that the, all the get along and a lot of them don’t. But the problem is too is you have, you have step kids, so you could have, you know, you could have five or seven kids in one house and, you know, you have an only child going to a new home where they have five or seven, you know, step siblings, and this is a complete change. And I think that that’s where, you know, you, as the parent should say, you know, I know this transition’s happening.
You have a new marriage, or, you know, you have a new spouse, but I need to make sure that my child is protected and being watched when, you know, it’s during your time. And that’s where those mental health professionals are just so critical to, you know, you, you’re doing the right thing for, for your, for your kiddo and making sure that it is a safe environment and that the child feels that, you know, they’re loved and not just while they’re at the new, new home with the step kids. So I think it’s, it’s just every year’s different. And I think the, the blended family is, is challenging for sure.
Do you have any final thoughts or anything on the, on the subject that you’d like to put out there?
Leslie Barrows (13:02):
Well, I just want to wish everyone a happy holidays, and I know that this is a time for, for families to be together and families will be traveling. So make sure you have a will and make sure that you have all your estate planning needs in place, because you know, 2019 comes and, and we want to make sure that everybody’s on set on that.
So, Leslie, how does everyone get in touch with you?
Leslie Barrows (13:26):
You’ll call us at (817) 481-1583 again, (817) 481-1583.
Speaker 1 (13:35):
So we’ve been listening to Leslie Barrows today. Talk about divorce and child custody during that holiday season. Leslie. So thank you for being with us today. And for everyone out there have a safe holiday and we will see you all next time.