Most people who have to experience a divorce involving children first-hand hope that their case will be simple, that they will be able to get along with their former spouse once the case is over, and hope that they will be able to co-parent effectively in the future. As a family law attorney, this is also what I wish for my clients. While this can sometimes be the case, it is always important to prepare for the worst, and to have an agreement that has provisions for when things may get ugly.
Many times people have to hire an attorney years after their divorce is completed, because they entered into a parenting agreement assuming that the positive relationship they had with their former spouse while the divorce was happening would continue, and they agreed to a very informal, loose timesharing schedule. If that positive relationship deteriorates, a loose, informal schedule will be very inefficient, and will quickly lead to disagreement and conflict.
The most common provision that divorcing parties want to gloss over is a strict holiday schedule, especially when children are young. The children's interests in certain holidays may change, and the important of having a certain morning versus evening may become insignificant later in the child's life. This issue was recently address by the Second District Court of Appeal in the case of Mills v. Johnson.
The Court was quick to point out the importance of having a court-ordered holiday timesharing schedule, and mentioned the importance of avoiding language that requires the parties to work together to determine what is best for the children. While it may seem difficult to plan out a child's life, especially when that life can be as long as 18 years, it is imperative that this be done in order to avoid unnecessary litigation in the future. The more specific a final agreement is, the less room there is for dispute in the future.