There are dangers now in allowing our children to play outside unattended. Neighbors may call the police because your school-aged children are walking alone to the park or the local bakery. It started in Maryland in April 2015. A couple decided to allow their children, ages 10 and 6, to play at the local park unsupervised. The police responded to the call and the parents began a fight with Child Protective Services (“CPS”). The news media dubbed them “free-range” parents. Maryland law at the time prohibited children younger than eight years old from being left unattended in a dwelling or car but did not reference young children playing outdoors. The parents appealed the findings of unsubstantiated neglect by CPS. In June of 2015, CPS cleared the parents and closed the case. In an email responding to requests for comments, DHR spokeswoman Paula Tolson said, “A child playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised.”

The search for parents arrested for allowing their children to play outside unattended, walk the family dog alone, or walk to the neighbor grocery store resulted in more than ten pages of results across the nation. With this trend to accuse parents of neglect for allowing their children to play outside unattended, we are quickly becoming a nation where are children are not free to play as children and grow from their mistakes. But what can you do as parent, who wants their child to be able to play outside without constant supervision?

First, know the laws of your state. In Michigan, child neglect is defined under MCL 722.622(k) as “harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare.” The law further clarifies that this can occur by either failing though financially able to do so or failing to seek financial or other reasonable means, to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care. The also says that neglect can occur if the child is placed in an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare when the responsible person failed to intervene to eliminate the risk or has or should have knowledge of the risk. While Michigan does not say that children playing outside unsupervised places them at an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, a parent must assess the known or reasonable scenarios that can arise from allowing your child to play outside unsupervised. Some obvious risks of harm include crossing streets, darting onto a busy street to chase a ball or other object, known criminal activity in the area, or traffic flow through residential neighborhoods.

Second, determine what is safe for your child to be able to play outside and teach your child from a young age what to do. While it is not advisable to allow a toddler to play outside unattended, consider allowing the child to play in their own yard with brief moments of running into the house while keeping an eye on the child to retrieve a glass of water or a toy. Stress the importance of not darting into streets or blindly walking across the street. Teach your child to never leave with a stranger even if they were told that you sent them. This should include anyone in uniform. Provide your child with a means to communicate easily with you, such as a cell phone. Consider sending an older child with your child to watch them. However, what is a suitable age to supervise another child, babysit should be followed. In Michigan, CPS recommends that a child as young as ten years old can be left home alone and there is no law saying how young a babysitter must be. It is decision that each parent needs to make. Jeanne Hannah, an family law attorney in Traverse City has written, “The State of Michigan Child Protection Handbook discusses ‘Improper Supervision’ and states: ‘According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case by case basis but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.’”

Finally, do not allow your children the age of ten to play outside without some type of supervision. For your children over age of 10 and under the age of 12, be cautious about what they can do outside without supervision. For children over the age of 12, encourage them to put down the remote controller to their favorite video game and go outside and play. If your child loves video games, consider starting a neighborhood live action role play group. This allows the children to dress up as their favorite video game character and play the game with other children. Of course, restrict the live action role play to non-violent video games. Start a neighbor football game, basketball, or baseball game. If your child loves to skateboard or do tricks on a bike, consider building an area that allows them to practice.

If you have encouraged your child to go outside and play, then find CPS knocking at your door. First, you do not need to let them in your house without a warrant. Often, they will be accompanied by a police officer, but they either need a warrant or your consent to enter your home. Second, be polite and respectful. Third, inform the worker that you would be happy to schedule an appointment to speak with them with your attorney present. Then immediately call an attorney knowledgeable in the child protective laws to be your voice. If you need an attorney, we can help you find one.

When it comes to getting a divorce, there is difficulty in keeping the matter between the husband, the wife, their respective attorneys and the court. A divorce is a matter of public record. In addition, extended family and friends will soon realize what is happening, especially after one spouse leaves the marital home. However, there is one group of people that need to be shielded from the as much of the divorce process as possible. That group is the children of the divorcing couple, regardless of their age.

Children have no place being in the middle of their parents’ divorce. However, children are often dragged into the divorce by parents or extended family. While a parent cannot control what other people do, there are things a parent can do to avoid dragging the children into the middle of the divorce. The first thing to do is agree to have a “child-centered divorce.” This means that the children are intentionally shielded from the emotions and drama that arise during the divorce process. This involves hiring attorneys whose practices support child-centered divorces and creating a plan together as parents that prioritizes the needs of the children over the parents.

The second step to take is minimize all conversations and arguments that children can potentially overhear. This includes telephone conversations where the children are nearby and not in the same room. As parents, we are not always aware of what children can hear when we are not actively paying attention to them. In fact, children can be quite sneaky in walking into a room their parent is in. I know that my children and grandchildren have surprised me many times by being right there when I thought they were somewhere else. What a child could overhear can have long-lasting effects. I still recall the arguments my parents had when I was a young child and the pain is just as real today as it was when I overheard my mother threaten my father to withhold his parenting time. Although she had sent us to our rooms, she forgot how the sound traveled through the walls. The therapists have said that the conflict children overhear during divorce proceedings can have long-lasting mental health ramifications.

Another important step that parents take is to minimize the negative impact to children is to avoid speaking badly of the other parent or allowing others to verbally bash the other parent. Children identify with both parents and can internalize these comments.  Other steps include to avoid asking the children to take sides, sending paperwork or messages back and forth with the children, asking the children to keep secrets or lie to the other parent, asking the children about what happened at the other parent’s house, or threatening to withhold parenting time because of an argument or non-payment of child support.

When parents take these steps to have a child-centered divorce, they are teaching their child how to resolve conflicts without drama or emotions. This is not to say that there is not emotions or drama, but the individual arises above the emotions and dramas and is able to make hard decisions that benefit and prioritizes the needs of another person. If you are looking for a child-centered divorce attorney, then look no further. It is my mission to change the way parents approach the divorce process in Michigan that creates a positive and loving environment that children can thrive and openly love both parents. Contact us to your first meeting with the team today.

Asking for help as a single parent can be difficult, but it is a sign of inner strength. Only you will know when you need help, what kind of help is needed, and who is the best person to provide that help to you. It is the asking that is hard. This is because of a mindset that we have developed about asking for help or fear of the need for help being relayed back to the other parent, especially when there was a custody battle in the divorce. But there are some places you can try first.

One place to turn for help is friends before family. Often asking friends for help is less complicated and emotional than asking family members. If dad or mom is not exercising their parenting time, ask a close friend to step up and attend events in lieu of the other parent. It will help your children feel connected to their classmates and not worry about not being able to attend special events, such as Daddy-Daughter or Mother-Son dances. I know how important this was to my oldest daughter as a young child when a couple I was friends with took her out to buy the special outfit and shoes, did her hair, the photos and the husband escort her to the Daddy-Daughter dance with a corsage. It made her feel special, and she was able to attend with all her friends from school.

Friends who know car repair are another place to ask for help with basic car maintenance. These friends can even accompany you to the mechanic to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of or merely provide you the ride to and from the mechanic’s shop.

Local people that you know at your child’s day care or classroom. Establish a babysitting co-operative where each member agrees to babysit in exchange for equal time with their children. This is a great way to be able to run errands or go to appointments without your children and scheduling play dates for them. In return, you can give back to other parents, even if they are not single.

Colleagues from work or study groups. Be able to spend time with other adults is critical for your sense of well-being and developing new friendships. When you have young children, a lot of your day being spent around child-centered activities. Be able to go and hang out with other adults will balance out your days between being a parent and being human.

Therapists and other professionals are good resources for when you need expert or specialized help. Therapists can help you process your emotions as you transition from a two-parent household to a one-parent household. They can help you evaluate how you are dealing with different situations as a single parent. A family therapist is also a great place to discuss different parenting techniques, especially when you have multiple children who can often times try to tag-team on their newly divorced parent.

Knowing when to reach out to an attorney to assist in post-judgment matters can save frustration in the future. We have seen clients who have tried to handle post-judgment issues themselves only to be tricked by the ex-spouse or the attorney for the ex-spouse. It is wise to have someone who is not emotionally invested in the outcome be your voice of reason.

If you find yourself needing to know who to reach out to in your local community for help, then call our office to inquire who we have on our Team 100 community referral list. We will introduce you to a professional we know, like, and trust who can help you

Being a parent is hard. After nine months, we have a beautiful child placed into our arms and there is no instructional manual. We may have our spouse besides us encouraging us and give us needed breaks. But when couple divorces becoming a single parent is hard. There are feelings of failure or embarrassment. The divorce process takes the parent through a range of emotions. During the whole process, parents are learning how to parent their children from two different households. This is harder than dividing assets.

Whether you are in the beginning of a divorce, the middle or the end, learning to put yourself first while meeting the needs of children is essential for your emotional well-being. Here are ten simple things you can do every day to put yourself first.

  1. Sit down for 5 minutes in silence. Just sit and be. Daily life as a single parent means that your children will turn to you for everything that they need from lunch money to bedtime stories. Be sure to take at least five minutes a day for self and just enjoy in the quiet.
  2. Take a bath or hot shower before bed. You can tie this activity in with the previous one. Enjoy the time and let “Calgon take you away” from the day’s stressors.
  3. Watch one of your favorite movies or cartoons from when you were a kid. Let your mind drift into nostalgia. Pull out your favorite Disney movie and rediscover it with your children.
  4. Listen to your favorite music and sing along—loudly! Dance to it. This is an activity that can be done with young children and allows them to burn off energy before having to go to bed.
  5. Say no. Don’t overcommit. You only have 168 hours per week. Be sure to save some of the time to take care of your body, mind and emotional well-being. While saying no may be hard, your life will better for doing so.
  6. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Say no to your internal perfectionist. Friends used to comment on how clean my house was when I was single parent. Little did they know that every night I would clean up every room. It took an accident for me to realize that it is alright for the house to be slightly messy when I go to bed at night. The most important thing I needed was sleep and not a clean house.
  7. Exercise regularly. Even if it is just a quick 5-minute power walk. Everyone has time for that! Exercise with your children. Turn off the electronics and technology and go outside and just have fun playing. When my children played sports, we would work on the skill drills outside together as a family.
  8. Make a list of 5 things each day you are thankful for. Gratitude changes your attitude. Seriously dig deep on this one. I heard this recently on a podcast that I listen to. When you have an attitude of gratitude, you can withstand the struggles of life easier.
  9. Laugh out loud. Whether it’s by watching funny videos or reading something, be intentional to make yourself laugh. This goes along with the attitude of gratitude. Divorce can deflate your feelings of self-confidence or self-worth. Give yourself the boost you need by intentionally trying to laugh and be joyful.
  10. Put down your technology. It is one of my worst time wasters that I always regret. Often, I have said it will just be a few minutes, but technology can quickly dominate hours of my day, if I not aware of how much time I am on the computer, the iPad, or the phone. Put the technology down during dinner time and engage with your children. Recently, one of my grandchildren had to remind her Papa that she was right there during dinner. Children are only little once and there will be a time when they do not want to interact with parents.

Last month, we tackled teen dating violence head-on. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I was a child and young adult, domestic violence was not something that was talked about. It was still a skeleton in the closet. It was not spoken about and friends were not brought home out of fear that it would happen again. Those who lived daily with domestic violence did so in silence and feeling alone.

However, today that is changing. Now, we are saying “No More” to violence in relationships, whether dating, married or divorced. There is an organization called No More Project that is fighting to end domestic violence and sexual assault. You can visit their website at www.nomore.org and learn more about domestic violence, sexual assault, and how you can help end the violence.

But to end domestic violence, we need to shine a light on it that is so bright that there are no shadows to hide in. One-third of women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault during their lives. As a child growing up in a house with domestic violence, I did not understand that we were not the only family where this happened. I did not understand that other families in my own neighborhood were experiencing this as well. I did not know the impact of the domestic violence I witnessed would have on the choices I would make as an adult. It is just not one third of women who are experiencing this, but their children who witness the violence and aftermath of it.

In addition, 65% of those who come forward say that no one helped them. The biggest key in ending domestic violence is to do something and not simply stand by silently observing. Be a friend who listens and helps create a plan to leave in safety. Be a friend who watches young children, so papers can be filed at the local court for personal protection orders. Educate yourself on different ways you can help. No More Project has a page dedicated to providing tips and scenarios. You can access it at https://nomore.org/learn/bystander-scenarios/.

If you have a friend or family member who is in a violent relationship and they are ready to break free, be their support as they go through the process. Accompany them to hearings, appointments, or offer a safe place to stay. If your friend needs legal help in filing for personal protection orders, call our office to schedule an appointment.

By: Melissa Pearce, Founding Attorney


When it comes to extracurriculars, one disagreement among parents is the number of activities. On occasions, parents present us with a schedule for their children that has them running from early in the morning until bedtime with no time for schoolwork.When this type of schedule is presented to our team, the question arises “How do I limit the number of extracurricular activities that my child is doing?”

When parents are divorced, the answer to this question is not always easy. Extracurricular activities have positive benefits for children. These benefits can include being able to socialize with friends, develop talents, and learn lessons that cannot be taught from inside a classroom.  However, there are risks that can be associated with the participation which could leave along-lasting negative impact.

            Before you file a motion to limit these activities, please consider these tips to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.

  1. Enroll your children in age appropriate activities. Typically,these kinds of activities have minimum participation ages. Enrolling your child in something above their level can be strenuous on them and can be more harmful than helpful.
  2. A full physical examination will ensure that your children are physically capable of participating in the sport to prevent any injuries.
  3. Volunteer at school events. This can help you and your child make connections with other community members on a more consistent basis.
  4. Monitor your children’s grades to ensure their education is not suffering due to time constraints and pressure. Education should come first for the children.
  5. This will allow your child to have more time to complete school work and be active in family activities.
  6. Ask your children why they want to get involved in certain activities and continue to ask your children if they still want to continue doing those activities, especially as they take on advanced school courses or additional responsibilities.
  7. This will allow time for your children to keep up on their school work and prevent exhaustion from lack of rest.

            When seeking the court’s assistance on deciding the number of extracurricular activities, the argument should focus on what is best for the child rather than an intrusion into parenting time. In Michigan, the courts focus on what is best for the child first and foremost.

Participation in extracurricular activities is good for a child. They should participate as they are able so that they may learn to be more well-rounded for adulthood. There are somethings that we as parents cannot teach that much be experienced. Children gain lessons from participation in these that cannot be learned at home or in the classroom.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent on how many extracurricular activities is reasonable, contact the team at Melissa Pearce & Associates for assistance. We are here to help you redefine your family.

Recently, we have been observing more fights over extracurricular activities for children. Sometimes, we are asked, “What are extracurricular activities, and do I have to approve each and every one that my child does?” This is a good question and dealt with as two questions in one.

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First, what are extracurricular activities? In a simple explanation, this would be anything your child does outside of normal school hours. Extracurricular activities “include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, and other pursuits.” These activities can be a program or sport sponsored by the child’s school or school district, through community education, or offered from a private studio, dance school, or instructor. Extracurricular activities can include tutoring for assistance in classes that your child may be struggling with. Often, I am asked the follow up question of why are the extracurricular activities important. The answer for each client depends on their child and the child’s unique pursuits. Sometimes, the child is highly talented in music or the arts and the parents have historically supported the pursuit from a young age. The child may be interested in developing a skill or talent. It may just be a way the child socializes with classmates and friends outside of the classroom. The reasons why a child should or should not participate are unique as each child in the world.

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            The next question about approving every extracurricular activity that a child does is another one that depends on the circumstances. We often inquire about how many extracurriculars is a child doing per semester. Having been a mother of children who participated in extracurriculars from marching band, dance, sports, church activities, summer camps, theater, driver’s education, and after school clubs such as chess club or Spanish Club, I understand how busy children’s lives and the intrusion upon family time and homework. But each child who participated in an extracurricular activity, they learned life lessons that could not be learned in a traditional classroom. For instance, those who participated in sports learning how to deal with competition, cheating, and recovering from losing the game. For the children, who participated in activities involving the arts, they learned about the dedication and time it takes to improve a talent, skill or passion. Others just had fun socializing with their friends. Some of the children were able to list their extracurricular activities on college applications.

            Guidelines for approving the activities were often known from the moment the child started participating. There were rules that were set early on and required the child to meet to continue participation when it came time to renew. As far as intruding on family time, it happened but was a sacrifice as a parent I chose to make as I knew the alternative was not the life I wanted for my children. Extracurricular activities kept the children busy and off the streets unsupervised where their own choices lacking experience and wisdom could get them into trouble. From working after school, the children began learning about the importance of a job, managing money and saving for what you want. All the extracurricular activities helped develop the children into who they are today.

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            Whether your child participates in extracurricular activities and which ones is a conversation that you need to have with the other parent and your child. Ask why does the child want to do this activity? Work together to set boundaries for participating. For instance, I required my children to actively participate throughout the duration of the activity or risk the opportunity to do others. When the children were in high school and able to work, I would require contribution toward the cost, especially when I realized that the child may not be appreciative of what it took to participate. The child had the choice to participate again the following season or year. It was not something I mandated to the children outside of completing their commitment, even if they grew to hate it.

            But what worked for my family and children may not work in every family. It needs to be a family discussion and parents need to agree to how many per semester or quarter a child may do. The finances need to be discussed. I know firsthand how expensive dance and acting lessons are and the cost may be prohibitive to some families.

            Speaking of cost that is another conversation to have. How will divorced or unmarried parents share in the cost of the extracurricular activities? Are there opportunities for the parent to volunteer to reduce the financial cost? If so, which parent will volunteer and how will their effort be accounted for?

            If your child wants to do extracurriculars, have a discussion with the child and other parent. Reach agreements on what will and may happen. Determine the limitations. It is easier than filing a motion to have a third party determine what your child can do after school is over.

If you are in a disagreement with your child’s mother or father on participation in extracurricular activities that you cannot resolve on your own, call us today for assistance. We may offer insights you have not thought of or can assist you in presenting your case to the judge.

The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year in America.  When it comes to cashing in on the day’s deals, the motto is “If you snooze, you lose.” For serious bargain-hunters, the day is the ultimate shopping extravaganza that requires a strategic plan, including store maps and item locations, that’s hatched days in advance. For those parents that fit the image of a “mama bear,” the goal is to snag up the must have item on the child’s list at a bargain price.

The combination of too-good-to-be-true deals and shoppers anxious to be first to purchase limited supply items can be dangerous, though. Overzealous and sleep-deprived drivers can make roads and parking lots dangerous. Unfortunately, Black Friday brings out thieves, pickpockets, and others, who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. 

No matter when you leave the house in search of Black Friday deals or saving your holiday shopping for the last minute, use the following safety tips to create your own holiday safety plan.  A carefully thought out holiday safety plan is key to giving yourself the gift of peace during this holiday season. 

In stores: 

  • Purchase a pre-paid card to do your shopping with. Consider purchasing more than one and limit the card to $200, so your entire holiday budget is not on one card. 
  • Limit the number of cards you take into a store and know how much you plan to spend. 
  • Lock the cards in your glove box. 
  • Keep purses zipped, closed, and close to your body in the front. If possible, carry keys, cash, and credit cards all separate from each other.  
  • Have your keys in hand when leaving a store.  
  • Don’t overload yourself with bags when leaving a store, it makes it difficult to defend yourself.  
  • Remember safety in numbers, avoid walking alone, especially in the dark.  

On the road and parking lot: 

  • Lock all doors and roll windows up. 
  • When shopping, keep gifts hidden in the trunk or from view.  
  • Avoid parking next to vans or large trucks. 
  • Always park in a well-lit area.  
  • Check the area around your car for anything suspicious when approaching. 
  • If going to an ATM at night, use the well-lit drive-up ATM at banks only and keep your receipt. 

The firm of Melissa Pearce & Associates wishes everyone a safe and joyous holiday season. 

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You are scheduling your first family vacation with your kids since your divorce. How do you plan this vacation with your ex in mind? What do you or do you not tell them or do in that vacation? Here a few tips on how to make your vacation planning go smoothly:

1. Do not tell your children first!

You have planned a vacation to Disneyland and want to share the news with your children. Your boss has approved your vacation time and it will be scheduled for the upcoming holiday break from school. You know the children will be excited, but when should you tell them. The best tip is to wait to tell the children until after you have spoken with the other parent and all details are set.

2. Review the custody and parenting time sections of your Judgment.

Before you ask for the time off for vacations with your children, read over the custody and parenting time provisions in your judgment and orders entered after the judgment. Do you understand the limitations listed in the paragraph on the Hague Convention? Are you traveling to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention? Do you know where to find those countries? Read the provisions for holiday parenting time. Are your plans within your schedule time? Have you allotted enough time to deal with canceled flights or other delays due to weather? How much notice are you required to provide the other parent? What information must be shared pursuant to the terms of the judgment? If any of the provisions or terms are unclear to you, you may need to consult an attorney to determine what you will need to do.

3. Talk to the Other Parent

Before you book a flight or reserve a hotel suite, talk to the other parent. If you need extra days to accommodate travel, ask how you can arrange this. Be willing to give up some of your time around your travel to have the time you need. Put any agreements reached with the other parent in writing and follows the terms of your judgment. If you are deviating from the terms of the judgment, put those in writing and have both parties sign, in front of notaries preferably. If there is a disagreement about your proposed travel plans, contact an attorney for assistance in working out the disagreement.

4. Give Advance Notice

Provide advanced notice to the other parent of your intended holiday or vacation plans.  Do not wait until the time specified in your judgment or the last minute. If the other parent is not in agreement or is holding the passport hostage, you will have enough time to seek the assistance of an attorney. If the other parent refuses or disagrees with your travel plans, you will have plenty of time to bring a motion before the court.

5. Provide all the Information and a Tentative Schedule

Giving notice in advance and talking to the other parent should include all the information and tentative schedule, even if your judgment does not require it. Being generous with this information may ease fears or anxiety that can lead disagreements. Provide this information in writing, an email is fine. This provides proof of the information communicated, if it is later needed. Be sure to answer the following in your notice:

  • Where are you going and for how long?
  • What are your travel plans?
  • How will you travel? By plane, car, train or bus? Be willing to provide the details of your travel, including airline, flight number and flight schedule.
  • Who is going with you and the children?
  • Where do you plan on staying? Provide all the information.
  • Have you made reservations or booked flights yet?
  • Do you need the child’s passport or immunization records?
  • What is the schedule like and when can the child and other parent communicate during the trip? Is communication with the other parent the best for the child?

If you are providing copies of confirmations or receipts for any reservations or bookings, feel free to redact any information that details with costs or account numbers.

6. Get Paperwork Early

Determine if the children will need a passport or visa. If this is the case the other parent normally must sign the appropriate paperwork. If the other parent has the passport, you will need to obtain it from them. If the other parent refuses to sign paperwork or turn over the passport, you will need time to file a motion with the court. There should be time to allow for enforcing the court’s decision, if the other parent is defying the court’s orders. This may take weeks or months to accomplish, so waiting until two weeks before the schedule trip may be too late.

            A sample email notice to the other parent may look like the following:

Dear Co-Parent,

As you recall, I have Spring Break next year, I have a vacation planned for this school break with the children. I have not informed the children yet, but I want to surprise them with it after speaking with you. Below is the information for the proposed plan.

On Saturday, April 4, 2019, the children and I will leave at approximately 7a.m. from my home. We will fly out of Detroit Metro to Orlando on United. I am looking at a 9 a.m. flight that will land around 11 a.m. in Orlando. This will be a direct flight. I will provide you with the exact times and flight number after I have booked the flight. We are staying for five nights at Disney All-Star Movies Resort, address and telephone. On Wednesday, we will drive down to Miami, Florida and stay in my parent’s condo, address and telephone. We will return to Orlando to catch our return flight home on Sunday. After retrieving our luggage, getting a quick dinner and driving, I expect that the children will arrive at your home around 8 p.m. The children will give you a call when we land and when we are on our way to your home.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns. As always, I will have the children contact you in the evenings. I will have my cell phone with me the whole time, if you need to reach us.

Sincerely,

Co-Parent

            You are not required to provide this information to the other parent (unless your judgment or order says differently); however, this act of good faith and spirit of cooperation may may co-parenting around the holidays easier. Finally, this behavior, even if not witnessed by the children, will last far into their future as the children will know that they had two parents who loved them and worked together for their benefit.

If you or a love one his having trouble planning their vacations with the other parent in mind, call us today. We can help make redefining family easier.

            In our last few blogs we have discussed what is holiday parenting time and what holidays are observed. But what happens if a holiday is important to your family and it is not listed in the holiday parenting time schedule. There are some holidays celebrated across the generations as part of one’s ancestral culture or religion that may not be recognized by the mainstream. This does not mean that a divorce will now end this tradition for your children. Here are some tips to handle those unscheduled holidays.

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            Ask the other parent to allow you to spend time with children. If the tradition has been ongoing, talk to the other parent. Ask that she allow you parenting time to celebrate this holiday with the children. You may have to remind her of the importance the holiday has been in your lives and reinforce your desire to continue its celebration with the children.

            Document agreements in writing. When the other parent agrees to allow you parenting time with the children for a holiday, document your agreement in writing. You do not need a formal written order to document your agreement for one year, but if you are looking to make celebrating the holiday an annual tradition with the children, adding it to the court-ordered holiday parenting time schedule will remove the uncertainty for the years to come. Both you and the children can count of being able to celebrate as a family. If it is a special occasion that you have requested, then exchanging text messages or emails that clearly state you both agree and what are the logistics may be enough.

            Show gratitude to the other parent. If you have received an agreement to celebrate an important holiday with the children, express your gratitude to the other parent. The parent could have denied you this opportunity, but instead showed respect for your traditions. This olive branch should be recognized, and gratitude expressed for the kindness and respect being shown to you.

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            Inform your attorney. The best approach about handling unscheduled holidays that are important to you and honor family traditions is to communicate those holidays to your attorney. If your attorney is unfamiliar with the holiday, you may have to explain the importance of the holiday to your attorney. Request that your attorney includes the holiday in the negotiations for holiday parenting time. Insist on mentioning the holiday in any mediation summary or trial brief that the attorney will have to write during your case. You may have to educate others why continuing this holiday tradition is in the children’s best interests.

            Celebrate the requested holiday with your children. If you have taken the steps to have parenting time on an unscheduled holiday, give the other parent advance information about how the holiday will be celebrated. Share what time you will pick up the children and when the children will return home. If the children need special clothing or equipment, communicate this. Finally, show up to celebrate the holiday. The other parent should not be asking you if you are coming to pick up the children for a holiday that you specifically requested.

            If you are having difficulty being granted time with your children on holidays not recognized by the Friend of the Court but have a long tradition in your family, call us today. We understand that in our diverse society there will be holidays celebrated that do not make the standard Friend of the Court holiday parenting time guidelines. We are here to help you preserve and pass on the family traditions to your children.