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'Tis the season to review your custody agreement

For a lot of families in California, December holidays mean travelling to see loved ones all over the state, country or sometimes the world. While these journeys may be relatively easy for most families, separated, divorced and blended families often have to be a little more cautious and meticulous about making travel plans so as not to conflict with carefully laid child custody arrangements.

If this is your situation, then now is perhaps the best time to dust off your custody arrangement, re-familiarize yourself with the terms of the agreement and decide if you and your ex need to make alternate arrangements this holiday season.

To help guide you along the way, here are five things you should keep in mind:

Are there are any longstanding family traditions to consider?

Many families have longstanding traditions in December, such as going to grandma's house to open presents or getting together with the whole family for a nice dinner. These plans, however, often don't include ex-spouse's, which is why it's a good idea to discuss plans in advance to make sure family gatherings don't eat into the other parent's time with their children.

Are there specific arrangements in your agreement that could change when you travel?

To divide holidays evenly, many divorced or separated parents agree to spend alternating holiday years with their children. Make sure you know whose turn it is this year; and if you're not sure, don't hesitate to ask your ex. It's better to be safe then realize too late that you have violated the terms of your custody agreement by making travel plans.

Has your child or children expressed a preference for where they would like to spend the holidays?

Although child preference isn't often considered when making a child custody arrangement, a child's preferences do change over time. As they get older, they may change their mind about where they want to spend Christmas morning. Don't hesitate to have an open conversation with your ex about your child's preferences. It's possible this could lead to changes to your custody arrangement that will benefit your family now and down the road.

Are you planning on leaving the country to see family?

Leaving the country without the other parent's permission is a huge law violation in California and other states. It can even escalate to charges of parental kidnapping and a huge legal mess for both parents involved. If you're planning on traveling overseas with the children to see family, make sure you have clear - even written - permission from the other parent before making plans.

Have you budgeted time for bad weather or travel delays?

Whether your ex is a stickler about time or not, it's always a good idea to plan and budget for unexpected travel delays. Remember: while you may not care if your ex has the children for a little longer during their time, your ex may not feel the same way in return. It's best to honor the time they have been given in the custody arrangement by planning for a worst-case scenario and coming home well before you need to.

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