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Can a Court help me with Christmas parenting issues?

As a divorce and family lawyer in Calgary, at this time of year, I am frequently asked by prospective clients: Can the Court help me with Christmas access or parenting issues I am having with my ex? Fortunately, the answer to that question is relatively straightforward and is, "Yes."

From my experience, it is not unusual for separated parents to argue over which of them has time with the children over the Christmas period. Usually, if they have any form of parenting or access Order, which of them has parenting time with the children over the Christmas period will have been covered by the Order. However, if that is not the case, or if the term is ambiguous, an Application to the Court can be made to resolve the issue both for the upcoming period, and all such periods in the future.

In most cases, the Court will make an Order that will ensure that the parties share the period equally and on an alternating basis so that one party has the children on Christmas day one year, and the other party has the children on Christmas day the following year. Usually, whichever party doesn't have the children on Christmas day will have the children on New Year's day.

If the parties live close to one another, the Court may decide that the parties will each spend time with the children on both Christmas day and New Year's day, exchanging them at noon but, in my experience, many Judges do not like such a term.

One issue that should be considered as early as possible is the timing of the Application. Typically, the Court does not sit for around 2 weeks over the Christmas/New Year period for anything other than emergency Applications. In addition, now that the Court is capping the number of Applications that may be heard each day, do not be surprised if an Application has to be filed with the Court prior to the end of November, in order to ensure that it can be heard before the Court closes down prior to Christmas. Each year, many people come unstuck by trying to file their Application too late.

You should also expect that, in the lead up to Christmas, Courts will have lots of Applications to hear and you may have to wait far longer than during other periods for your Application to be heard.

If you have any questions regarding the above, or if you would like to contact me regarding any questions you may have regarding divorce, separation, child support, division of property, custody and access, guardianship and parenting, or spousal support, please call me on 403-538-2105, or contact me via email using this link.

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