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Holiday Custody Qs

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This is probably gonna get ugly, so I'm going to take some extra steps to explain this complicated situation.


We have legal custody/physical custody established with the courts, but actual visitation is at my discretion. *We have no intention at this time to go back to court and set a visitation schedule* However, as DS gets older (and my memory gets fuzzy) I find that it would be more helpful to have this written down and agreed on. Yes, I understand that this is not an actual legal document, and therefore would not be enforceable, but the point is just to have an agreement between us so we can refer back to it (rather than me and him going "Umm........... i have no idea." We have been flying by the seat of our pants, so far, and it's been semi-frustrating.


So, my goal would to be establish a Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall visit. The "Winter Visit" would incorporate holidays like Christmas. The "Spring Visit" would incorporate Easter. The "Fall Visit" would incorporate Thanksgiving. The idea is the visit be about a week long, and alternate yearly between Mom/Dad. The Summer visit would be a visit to Dad's every summer.


So, questions:

  1. Who pays for transportation? We have a couple options here, one parent drives all the way down once then, the other parent drives all the way up for the pick up, or each parent meets halfway for each trip. For 1 roundtrip visit, I normally spend about $75 in gas. I spend about $40 driving roundtrip to the meeting point. For another trip there, I spend close to $80. I also don't save any time - the roundtrip visit is six hours up, six hours back. The halfway meeting point is threes hours up (2x), and three hours back (2x), so it is the same. Theoretically, this means that I could spend up to $320 on gas/year. There's a reason I don't go up to CT (to see my family) that often because I can't afford it. So, how on earth do I make this fair and affordable?
  2. Birthday. I really don't want DS traveling every other year for his birthday, but I guess I should make that an option? We have told DS's BD he is welcome to come down here and celebrate it with us, but again, for cost reason....
  3. How should the holiday visits be arranged "fairly"? I think DS's BD is getting Christmas this year, which is the reason for the schedule going forward from this year-on. (I think he was supposed to get Christmas last year, but couldn't afford to travel, so I think this should be our Christmas, but I can't remember, so I am "giving" it to DS's BD)
  4. Is a "summer visit" appropriate for a 3/4 year old or should I hold it off another year? DS spent almost 3 weeks with DS's BD over the fall and he did just fine with him. We had some issues with continuity but I did address those with DS's BD. I mean, that's always going to be an issue because no two households are ever going to be the same.... I was thinking the visit could be "UP" to 4 weeks, and then we'd discuss it as he got older.

Thoughts? Questions? Ideas? Maybe just do a summer visit and Christmas visit and everything else is "optional" or "cost of DS's BD" ??

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My ex and I meet pretty close to half way, he drives 3 hours I drive 2 and we hand off in the big city. His xmas visit starts boxing day and he brings them back to me Dec 30 so we can do our own new year's eve things. Those 5 days seem to be enough. The kids still do the actual holidays with me but they get time close enough to the holiday to celebrate with him. Summer break is 1 week, dd opted not to go this year so she could do a camp counselling thing, but ds went for 1 week. Again we met 1/2 way. Other visits are based on mutual availability. In the end I have sole custody, visitation is worded as being open and generous decided mutually. Because of the kids ages, their extra curric schedules and ds14 now working there is very little timefor visits, so they usually get a weekend every few months in addition to those 2 weeklong visits. The kids do not have a visit just because it is their birthday. He will give them a gift the next time he sees them or mail one.


As for affordability. I have made it clear to my ex what I can afford to do as far as visits. When he calls me and asks to see them I try to accomodate but sometimes I tell him he needs to pay for my gas if he wants me meeting him half way, he and his girlfriend make 6-7times what I do, and he only pays support based on an income years ago that was half what he makes now and does not pay for extra currics, medical etc. I make it clear to him with how much he is "saving" by not paying those things he can afford to help with gas at times. It's not everytime but it does help, especially if gas prices are particularily high and/or I have to drive back to the city a couple days after the visit for a medical appt etc. I can't be using the funds for gas for a medical appt just to meet him. He usually pays it then.


He does not get any holidays with them, those are mine and mine alone. THat said my ex was out of the picture for 10 years, we created our own traditions and Iwas not letting him swing back onto the scene and take those away kwim.

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1. I would always meet halfway and have each parent pay for their own gas. It seems fair unless your ex is making a great deal more or not paying support.


2. If your DS lives with you most of the time, and his BD is far away, I would think that your DS would want to spend his birthdays with you because that is where his friends are. I would offer the BD to get him the week before or after his birthday.


3. One parent gets Christmas, the other parent gets Thanksgiving and Easter. Then alternate the next year.


4. At 3/4 I would limit the summer visit to a few weeks. As he gets older he should be able to handle a longer visit.

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I almost advocate for a full parental responsibility and advocate unless the circumstances are truly *dangerous*. As such, I think that maximizing your children's time with Dad is best. He's a Dad - not a sitter or other relative. He should have summers with the kids, just like you should.


Alternating holidays is the standard visitation arrangement in Texas. Our own divisions in terms of cost have pretty much been 50/50 as far as driving.

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For N, our agreement says holidays are alternated by year. EX: One year I have him for Christmas and the next he does. Same with Easter, Thanksgiving. Birthdays arent really included. As for vacation, the only thing it says is that we can have up to a week but have to give at least 1 month notice. Transportation is not discussed. (which is annoying because I do ALL the driving every other weekend).

However this is from 2006 and is still the same so it could be outdated as far as if OP situation is new.


I will tell you this year its just been sort of a whatever year. We didnt even talk about Thanksgiving, but if they had asked I would of told them to keep him. Same with Christmas since we dont celebrate it.

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Who moved away? If it was the ex, then he should pay for all transportation costs. If it was you, then you should.


In regards to a schedule, I wouldn't make one. Things change. What if you don't like the new wife or her children? What if you ex starts a lifestyle you don't agree with? You would not want a piece of paper lying around in your handwriting stating it was OK for your son to spend the summers away.


Just see how life goes and be very flexible. If dad is planning a fabulous trip to Disney for Christmas, then be ready to let your son go even if it's not his year. Since your son is with you all the time, be prepared for your son to want to go to all the holidays at dad's house. Also, be prepared to have holidays on days other than the actual day. That way both parents get the kiddo for the holiday.



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The "move away" scenario is not really easy to figure out. He broke up with me before I found out I was pregnant. He moved to Boston the same month DS was born. I moved down to PA when DS was 3 months old. He moved *back* to CT when DS was about 9 months old. Paternity wasn't established until DS was 11 months old. (This is how I was able to "get away" with moving DS out of state... if paternity had been established at birth then I would have never been allowed to move out of CT with DS) Isn't that ironic? Anyway, so we both moved. The easiest answer is we both pay.


I am not really worried about DS's BD's behavior around DS. When DS's BD and I were together he was mature- after we broke up I think he had an identity crisis and started acting like a college kid (drinking,etc...) He doesn't do that anymore. DS's BD is very down-to-earth guy, doesn't have a REAL significant other... he has a girlfriend now but they have been dating like three months. It's not serious. He just isn't "there" yet.


Every phone conversation with his BD, DS asks "Daddy come pick DS up?" He talks about going in the car and going to "BD's house" and then wanting to see gramma, and grandpa... I am so glad that DS can say what he wants now. It just makes my heart glad. (Yes, we explained that he has two Daddy's)


Neither of us can afford any vacation, so I feel that if we make a schedule then all of us (DH and I, and DS's BD) can save up and prepare for regular visits. Even if we can't afford a visit or skip one, then we can at least have a Christmas schedule to fall back on. Really, I just want to be able to maximize the time that my son is able to spend with his father. When DS visited BD over the fall for a couple weeks, we had a terrible time arranging travel back to PA (car issues, glasses broke, got sick, DH's work schedule, etc...) and if we arranged for visits at a more mutually agreeable time then that could have been avoided.


I spoke with BD on the phone today and he was generally agreeable to the idea. We aren't looking for anything binding/set in stone. We're not setting specific dates just rather "This year mom gets easter and thanksgiving and dad gets Christmas... etc..." the one thing he is a bit iffy on is the summer visit because it is easy for him to arrange for his mom or my mom to watch DS on their days off but if he were to stay longer he'd need to find childcare. That has him a bit flustered I think. But, I told him we will see where the cards fall. (With his and DH's work, too much is up in the air)


I should have mentioned that the normal visitation schedule so far goes like this:

- I visit CT 1-2 times a year (length usually 1-2w, BD normally sees DS 1-2/week)

- BD came down to visit twice, visits 1-3 days

- New to this year: DS spent approx 3w with BD (he did go stay with my mom a couple nights)


It is a "work in progress" you know. I don't mind celebrating holidays on the wrong day, we do it already, sometimes, by choice. or when DH is working. The future is an unknown, but I do not fall in the boot camp that I should be afraid to say something or take a step out my door in case the wind should blow the wrong way. I have to face a huge unknown with my son, and I would rather meet it head on.... plus since nothing is a legal agreement (BD would have to go to court to get it changed.) I still have final say.

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