Are we ever ready for the holidays? Did we plan everything enough in advance? Did we talk to our ex about where the kids are going and when? Sometimes things come up last minute, and holiday visitation is a common issue for family law attorneys. I asked attorney Steven N. Peskind for his thoughts on holiday visitation. Peskind: “Holidays bring heightened tension to many divorcing couples. Plan ahead. By doing so, arrangements can be worked out in advance and the court can help if necessary. Last minute scrambling should be avoided; preparation allows everyone to have a more peaceful holiday.” Steven N. Peskind, of the Peskind Law Firm, is a well-respected resource in complex family law issues.
Historically, Chicagoland courts encourage parents to consider the holidays and visitation schedules in advance to prevent last minute races to the courthouse with last minute and emergency motions. I recall a few judges in my home county who issued standing orders that they would not hear motions for holiday visitation after the 1st of December. I made a few phone calls to see what our courts had to say, if anything, about holiday visitation.
Cook County: “Cook County does not a have division-wide policy regarding holiday visitation. It would be prudent for parties to timely file petitions – some judges will assuredly refuse to hear a holiday visitation case as an emergency in that 12/25 is Christmas every year. However, even with that an emergency may arise so there are no absolute rules.” Hon. Grace G. Dickler, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division for the Circuit Court of Cook County.
DuPage County: “We are pleased that the number of emergency motions regarding holiday visitation dropped in the last five to ten years. Family law attorneys know to bring visitation motions well in advance, especially since they know the holidays are the same date every year and there is no reason to delay. While some of the judges might have their own informal rules, and a particular judge might have their own rule of thumb, there has never been an official policy. Hon. Rodney W. Equi, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division for the Circuit Court of DuPage County.
Kane County: "I have not seen any rushes for emergency motions for holiday visitation lately. Most attorneys are experienced enough to tell their clients to make their motions regarding holiday visitation well in advance. So long as the parents have an agreement things work well, but when an agreement breaks down or there is no underlying agreement there can be issues. Most parents hopefully manage to overcome their disagreements without involving the court." Hon. Robert Pilmer, Circuit Judge in the Family Division for the Circuit Court of Kane County.
Sometimes, sad but true, a parent will show up with a last minute vacation plan, just to upset or thwart the plans of the residential parent. Nobody ever admits nefarious intent, but most family attorneys know gamesmanship when they see it. When I interviewed attorney Peskind if he thinks some people use holiday visitation to upset an opposing party and he offered the following comment: “Unfortunately, we see many people using their children as pawns to irritate their spouses. This toxic conduct only hurts the children and frankly is intolerable.”
This holiday season families have an opportunity to celebrate and support each other, especially if someone is going through divorce or post-decree issues involving the children. In my experience, people pay attention to how others react to tough situations. I urge everyone to celebrate the good in families during the holidays, and I believe your surrounding friends and family would agree.
We thank the staff and contributors from a few of our local courts, and we thank attorney Steven N. Peskind of the Peskind Law Firm in St. Charles for his contributions to today’s article. The Peskind Law Firm is a premier law firm in the Chicago area that concentrates its practice in the area of divorce and family law.