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What should we consider when reviewing our Parenting Plan for the holidays?

Holiday traditions may look different in 2020 as families adjust their plans to accommodate the need for social distancing and to protect vulnerable people from the virus. Making changes to Parenting Plans for this holiday season may require some flexibility and patience. 

Changes to Holiday Gatherings

Both parents should review the current CDC guidelines for holiday get-togethers, and discuss their willingness and ability to adhere to them. Large gatherings, such as holiday parties and even large family get-togethers, may be disrupted by the pandemic. Parents may have concerns about children being exposed to COVID-19 and then exposing other family members who may be at greater risk for adverse health consequences. Parents should ask themselves: Have plans for holiday gatherings changed and will these changes affect the Parenting Plan?

Changes to Holiday Travel Plans

Parents may also want to look at the CDC's travel guidelines and restrictions. If traveling is part of the yearly holiday plans, these plans may need to be revised or at least reviewed. Long distance travel has been disrupted in a major way by the pandemic, yet people are still traveling despite the risks and the inconvenience. Parents may want to consider both the potential risks to everyone involved and alternative ways to travel that are less risky. Parents should ask themselves: Will changes to holiday plans affect travel plans as well? Do these changes affect the Parenting Plan?

If changes need to happen, avoid the temptation to simply agree to them verbally. All Parenting Plan changes should be made in writing. This provides protection if a disagreement or conflict happens later on. In addition, consider tracking visitation times with a Child Visitation Letter. This may be required for future proof of time spent with the child, particularly if the times and dates changed from the original plan.

What if my ex and I disagree about adhering to COVID guidelines for our kids?

The COVID-19 pandemic can lead to disagreements when rules about social distancing and traveling are viewed differently by each parent. Parents need to be open about what they are and are not comfortable with, and they should create travel plans that all guardians feel comfortable following. If a parent has misgivings about the other parent's proposed plans, they may be able to request modifications to the Parenting Plan to help provide protections they feel are important.

When discussing these terms, parents should show respect to each other even if they have different views about mask-wearing and social distancing. The best way to address these questions is by coming to an agreement that both parties can stand by with confidence. This helps avoid conflict that could harm the holiday experience for the children.

What are my rights if either I or my ex can't afford child support during the pandemic?

When re-assessing the Parenting Plan for the holiday season, take time to look at child support obligations. Child support obligations usually remain intact even when Parenting Plans are adjusted, but the pandemic has led to job losses and furloughs for many individuals. This can create financial strain as parents try to meet their child support obligations with less income.

Without an official child support modification, supporting parents are still obligated to pay their child support amounts. Modification through the courts may be necessary to relieve some of this financial pressure. You can use a Child Support Review Letter to ask for a review of child support obligations. 

That said, if money is tight and a parent is facing the risk of eviction or housing disruption, the parents may need to discuss and revise the parts of their Parenting Plan that deal with living arrangements and who pays for what holiday-related expenses. Again, if official changes are made to the Parenting Plan, they should be documented in case future discussions or disagreements arise.

Families across the U.S. will be reevaluating their holiday plans this year, and parents who share custody during the holidays may find it beneficial to do the same. Flexibility and the willingness to accommodate the disruptions caused by COVID-19 will be key to creating a positive holiday experience for our children despite the many challenges we face. If you don't already have a Parenting Plan in place, you might consider checking out this free Parenting Plan. If you have a legal question about your specific parenting situation, you can ask a lawyer.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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