I’ve seen this scenario over and over again:
Mom and Dad are in the process of getting a divorce, but not that far along the path just yet. For the sake of the children, Mom and Dad are getting along great! Both are being flexible and agreeable to the visitation schedule of their minor children. Both want to make sure the children’s lives are disrupted as little as possible. As much as Mom and Dad might not like each other (they are getting a divorce, remember?), they talk to each other in normal, civilized voices and respectful tones. Mom and Dad are agreeable to child support figures, responsibility and payment of health insurance coverage for the children, who is able to claim the children as tax deductions, etc. Mom and Dad are getting along so wonderfully that they don’t want a set visitation or holiday schedule in place. They decide that since they are getting along so amazing, that set dates and times are not necessary. Mom and Dad say that the kid’s schedules are so hectic with baseball and cheerleading practice, piano lessons, birthday parties, cub scouts, etc., that they will just work the visitation schedule out between the two of them. (Cue the scary music…)
In an ideal world, this scenario would turn out perfectly. Mom and Dad would both continue to be reasonable and work together to co-parent their children successfully without ever having to have a detailed court-ordered visitation schedule in place. However, I am here to tell you that in 99.9999999999% of the cases, this scenario does not work out as planned by Mom and Dad, which is why it is so important to take the time and spend the effort now sitting down and thinking about an everyday schedule that would work out the best for you and your family. Should you and your soon-to-be ex ever disagree on visitation of the children, then you will have something official and court-ordered to fall back on.
The typical visitation schedule in Louisiana sets out for Mom to have the children for certain holidays in even-numbered years, while Dad will have the children on those holidays in odd-numbered years. However, you need to set some time aside, sit down and think about your family’s traditions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July, Halloween, etc. In most cases, the court system wants to make sure that the children are spending an equal amount of holiday time with each parent, but the schedule does not have to necessarily be that of cookie-cutter format. For example, if your family’s traditions are to get together every year for Christmas Eve and your soon-to-be ex’s family’s traditions are to spend Christmas afternoon together, then by all means, you can certainly agree to have the children spend each and every year on Christmas Eve with you and each and every year on Christmas Day with your ex.
Again, in an ideal world, the parties would not even need to have a court-ordered visitation schedule, but as your attorney who you have hired to provide you with legal advice, I am telling you that you need to take the time right now to figure out a visitation schedule. It is in your best interest to think about all of these things right now that you don’t think is necessary for you to think about yet.
If the current status of your relationship with your soon-to-be ex continues to stay friendly and amicable and you are able to work out the visitation schedule between the two of you without ever having to look at the court-ordered documents, GREAT! You are the poster parents for co-parenting and you should be cheered loudly, while receiving a hearty pat on the back. But, if my predictions are correct and differences arise down the road, then you will have a fall-back plan to look to when the disagreement heats up.
So, if Mom and Dad are getting along great and agreeable to work out a visitation schedule amongst themselves, it is my job to make them think about the possibilities that lie ahead. It may be a tedious task that my client finds unnecessary, but — call me a pessimist — will be thanking me years (or months or weeks) later when Mom and Dad aren’t so buddy-buddy anymore.