Co-Parenting Challenges & The Holiday Season

Every parent has imagined the look on their kids’ faces coming out of their bedrooms looking for Santa Claus on Christmas morning, or dreamed of Thanksgiving dinner with the kids and family members around a warm hearth. Favorite moments for many families happen around the holiday season, whether that’s generations-old traditions or new adventures.

So how do you and your co-parent get through this season when you both want the joys of those precious moments? Here are some tips to help.happy_holidays

  1. Pick your battles. Especially during the holidays, it is important to choose what holidays are particularly important to you and what days are especially meaningful to spend with the kids. Of course, every day is important and every tradition is important, but focus your attention on the holidays that mean the most to you. If your family traditionally celebrates Christmas Eve over Christmas Day, then the focus should be on making sure you make the most out of Christmas Eve. If you celebrate Hanukkah and your co-parent celebrates Christmas, there is probably a way to create a schedule where you both get to enjoy your respective holidays with the kids.
  2. Think outside the box. If you are having a hard time with a custody schedule, maybe “normal” just isn’t right for you and your family. A lot of schedules alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Christmas and New Year’s, etc., but those formulae do not work for everyone. If you and your co-parent get along well enough, maybe celebrate Christmas morning together, or spend an hour together around the Thanksgiving dinner table. If that is not an option, think of what other ideas would work for you. If your co-parent loves Halloween night and you are the creative costume-making type, maybe an agreement would work where you dress up the kids and your co-parent trick-or-treats with them.4-family-friendly-new-years-eve-bashs-houston-2015
  3. Stay in your lane. If there are discount airline tickets to your hometown, but the flight leaves 6 hours before your scheduled pick-up time, either choose a different flight or have that conversation with your co-parent before you book the flight. As much as the holidays matter to you, and as much as you have scheduled certain activities based on your availability, remember that your co-parent has also.
  4. Remember relief through the Court is slow. Even though a problem during holiday visitation may seem like a crisis, the Courts may not see it that way. Additionally, courts are usually heavily impacted during the holidays by judicial officers taking vacations and everyone else who needs relief flooding into the courtrooms. If your co-parent is acting unreasonably, it may be better to talk to them rather than seek relief through the Court. Things like planned vacations, exchange times for the holidays, and other similar issues are not grounds for ex parte (emergency) relief. If you feel that you need a Court order to make things go smoothly, plan ahead and file at least 3 months in advance.
  5. Enjoy your time. Most importantly, have fun with the kids during your custodial time, and find activities that are fulfilling to you when the kids are with your co-parent. Try not to stress about the little things. Be flexible with your co-parent because you will want him/her to be flexible with you.

From all of us at Sperling Diarian & McAllister, we hope you have a fun and peaceful holiday season! If you find that your co-parent is making this holiday season especially challenging, we can help you. Call us at (818) 205-9090 or email us at



Planning On Moving Away With Your Kids? Here’s What You Need To Know

In California, when one parent decides to move away from the other and take the children along, the case becomes a “move away” case. Both parents are free to go wherever they want, whenever they want. The only time that it becomes a move away case, is when the moving parent wants to take the children along.

If you are planning on moving away, here are some things to keep in mind:take off

  1. Even a move of a short distance can be a “move away.”The Court has found that a move away case exists where the other parent’s relationship with the children will be affected by the move. In Los Angeles, that means that a move of a fairly short distance could be considered a move away case if heavy traffic prevents the other parent from exercising their old visitation schedule.
  2. Sole legal custody does not equal the right to move away. Even though Family Code 7501 states that the custodial parent has the right to change the child’s residence, Courts will not grant the move-away without a consideration of all relevant factors. The landmark case on move away, In Re Marriage of Burgess(1996) 13 Cal.4th 25 and its successor, In Re Marriage of LaMusga(2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072 established a lengthy set of factors used by the Court in determining move away cases.
  3. These are the LaMusgafactors:1) The reason for the proposed move; 2) The child’s interest in stability and continuity in custodial arrangement; 3) The distance of the proposed move; 4) The age of the child; 5) The child’s relationship with both parents; 6) The relationship between the parents; 7) The wishes of the child; and 8) The extent to which the parents currently are sharing custody. A discussion of all eight factors is a blog entry in and of itself.
  4. The move-away process will likely be a lengthy one.If you plan on moving in the next two months, do not expect the Court to be done with the move away evaluation. Most Courts require a separate evaluation of the child and family situation by a third party, in most cases a Parenting Plan Assessment (PPA) or similar assessment. Due to high demand and low availability, these assessments can take months to complete.
  5. Moving without the Court’s consent could be detrimental to your future success.If a parentage (unmarried with children) or divorce case has been filed and there is no Judgment, moving without an agreement or Court order is a violation of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) and could place you at risk of a contempt of Court action. Even if your case is post-judgment, Courts do not look kindly on parents who move away without an agreement or Order, and the decision could impact the Court’s order when the assessments are completed.
  6. The remedy for a move-away without permission is return of the child, not the other parent.If the other parent to your children has moved away without your consent or a Court order, the remedy is an order placing the children in your custody. The Court will not make an order that the other parent return to their former residence. In some situations, such as where the non-custodial parent travels for work, it may not be feasible to be the primary caretaker, regardless of the injustice of the move.

can-i-move-away-if-i-share-custody-with-my-exThis is just a brief introduction to this complex area of law. It has been said that move-away cases are the hardest cases for the judge to determine, because the impact on the parents and the children is so extreme, even when the right decision is made.

If you are planning on moving away with your children, or if you have learned that the other parent plans on moving, do not wait to get help. The attorneys at Sperling Diarian & McAllister have tried numerous move-away cases, and we can help you. Call us today at (818) 205-9090 or email us at

Checklist For Couples With Children: Important Issues To Consider When Creating A Parenting Plan

When couples with children divorce or separate, they need to create an arrangement for the care of their children that best meets their needs. In child custody, that arrangement is known as a parenting plan. A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between parents that lays out their rights and responsibilities in regards to the care of their children. A comprehensive parenting plan is vital to a continuing relationship between children and their unmarried or divoco-parents1rced parents. It is also a useful tool to avoid conflicts that may arise in the future.

A Parenting Plan should cover the day-to-day responsibilities of each parent, the practical considerations of the children’s daily lives, as well as how parents will agree and consult on important long-term issues about their children. What is best for the children is the most important thing to consider when making a parenting plan. The following checklist identifies important issues to consider when developing a parenting plan. These issues are not exhaustive, and are simply meant to help guide your thinking and discussions on the topic.

  1.  Where Will the Children Live?

First and foremost, parents must decide on living arrangements for their children. This is referred to in the courts as “physical custody.” Parents may decide that the children live equally with each parent, moving between two homes on an alternating schedule. Parents may also choose to have the children live primarily with one parent, and have frequent visitation with the other. Regardless of the arrangement, determining where the children will live is usually the first step.

  1.  How Will Legal Decisions be Made?

In most cases, parents will equally share the right and responsibility to make major decisions affecting their children’s lives. These decisions specifically include those regarding their children’s health, education, and religious upbringing. This type of shared decision-making is referred to in the courts as “joint legal custody.” (Under California law, there is a presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the children). In exceptional circumstances, such as those involving physical or substance abuse, sole legal custody may be awarded to one parent alone.

  1.  How Much Child Support Is Needed?

Under California law, child support is calculated using a complex formula using state regulation, which is done using a program called DissoMaster. The DissoMaster’s proposed support is called “Guideline.” The essential factors in calculating the Guideline are the combined income of each parent, the number of children involved, and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Courts may deviate from the Guideline in exceptional circumstances.

  1.  Who Will Provide Health Insurance?

State and federal laws require that children have health insurance coverage. Parents need to decide who will pay for this coverage. If one parent has a better health insurance policy and/or can obtain coverage at the least cost, that parent will likely be required to continue providing coverage for the children. The payments made toward health insurance will be considered in the process of calculating child support.

  1.  Who Will Pay Uncovered Expenses?

Life is full of unexpected expenses, such as uncovered medical bills, payment for orthodontic devices, or therapeutic services for children. Parents should have a plan in place for splitting these unexpected costs. Parents should also discuss how they will split other sporadic expenses, such as new text books for school, extracurricular activities, or a vehicle for driver–aged children.

  1.  Who Will Provide Transportation to and from School and Other Activities?

Parents need to create a plan for reliably transporting their children where they need to go. Parents will need to consider their individual work schedules and work out a plan for transporting their children to and from daycare, school, extracurricular activities, parties, and play dates. Parents also need to determine who is responsible for transportation when the children’s custody changes hands, where the exchanges will happen, and what the ground rules will be.coparents3

  1.  How Will the Children Spend Their Vacations, Holidays, and Special Events?

How children will spend their vacations, holidays, and other special events (like birthdays) can be a divisive issue between parents. It is important to address this issue early, so both parents understand the rules in advance. Will the children spend certain holidays with one parent every year, or will holidays alternate between parents? Parents should come up with a fair arrangement that considers all school breaks, holidays, and special events (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other events such as weddings, graduations, etc.).

  1.  Who Will Attend School and Extracurricular Events?

Parents should decide who will attend parent-teacher conferences and other school and extracurricular events. Will both parents arrive separately to each event, or will events be split? If events are split, parents must decide upon a method for determining who will attend each event. (For example, Mom attends on even-numbered days, and Dad attends on odd-numbered days.)

  1.  Which Third Parties May Visit and Communicate with the Children?

California law recognizes that individuals other than parents often have a significant impact in children’s lives, and have a strong interest in maintaining contact with the children. Parents should decide how and when the children will communicate with these third parties.

  1.  How Will Parents Communicate with Each Other and Their Children?

Generally, parents should not communicate with each other through their children, i.e., use the children as messengers. Parents should decide upon a method and schedule for communicating with each other about the children’s lives and for decision-making. Parents should also decide upon a method and schedule for the children to communicate with them when they are in the other parent’s care.

  1.  Who Will Claim the Tax Deduction(s)?

Generally, the parent with primary physical custody will claim the tax deduction(s) for the children each year. However, the tax deduction is valuable, and can often be used as a bargaining chip during negotiations for child support. Parents may decide that the non-custodial parent will claim the tax deduction(s) each year, or parents may decide to alternate claiming the deduction(s). Parents must decide who will claim the deduction to avoid tax issues with the IRS later on.

  1.  How Will Parents Save for College Expenses?

If the parents have been contributing to a college fund for their children, it is worth discussing how that will continue. Parents may decide to continue contributing jointly to a college savings plan or trust fund, or both parents may decide to start a savings account on their own.

  1.  What Happens if One Parent Must Relocate?

Parents should discuss what to do if one parent finds himself or herself in a situation where he or she needs to relocate away from the other parent. Parents should contemplate this possibility and work through issues like physical custody, visitation, and costs of travel. Parents may agree to prohibit any relocation except with prior court approval and reasonable notice.

  1.  How Will Future Conflicts Be Resolved?

No matter how well parents plan for the future, they simply cannot anticipate every contingency. Since even the most cooperative parents will not always agree, it is important to have a plan in place for resolving future disputes.

At SDMS, we encourage, where possible, parents work with each other to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable California family law attorneys will be your advocates and help you through difficult situations. If you would like more information about parenting plans, child support, visitation, or any other family law issue, call us at (818) 205-9090 to schedule your free consultation today.