Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Tips for Divorced and Separated Parents!

With the Holidays upon us it is time for cheer and goodwill, but for divorced and separated parents this time of the year is stressful. Immediately the phone starts ringing and words are exchanged. Your plans for a happy and relaxing holiday just got more difficult with the addition of a custody exchange to your itinerary. However, things don’t have to be so gloom. As a family law attorney in Springfield Missouri, I have witnessed some of the best and worst parents out there, and patterns start to develop that can help divorced parents make the holiday time a little better, not just for the children, but for everyone.

Let’s start with a simple idea. The best divorced parents out there have one thing in common: THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEIR PARENTING PLAN IS! How does that make you a good parent? Parenting plans are restrictions; guidelines for what parents should do if they can’t come to an agreement. The best parents are able to set aside their differences that caused the divorce or separation, and focus on a schedule that is best for the kids. It isn’t always what you want, but if you are a parent you have already learned that your needs are no longer important. What matters most are the children. If you are one of the parents that don’t know where your plan is or what is in it, then you can stop reading, because the rest of this blog is going to focus on the rest of you. Here are a few tips to make the holidays easier:

1.       Communication: Prior to the exchange make sure you communicate with the other parent so you are both on the same page as to upcoming exchanges. However, communication doesn’t stop there. The other parent will want to know where you will be staying and a basic itinerary, if traveling. Remember, they are not trying to be nosy; they just want to know where their kids will be. Provide such willingly and have a phone number they can be reached at. It is a good idea to have this typed up and prepared before the exchange.
2.       Agreement: When discussing the holiday schedule make sure that all parties are on the same page. There is nothing worse than having different ideas on what is to occur so make sure the two of you fully agree on what is to occur. If the parties are high conflict, this may require each to pull out their parenting plan and go over it in detail. Many attorneys would gladly review the document for little to no fee so do not hesitate to ask.
3.       Inform: Once the parties have reached an agreement and communicated such to each other, draw up a holiday schedule and send a friendly reminder to the other parent. This will serve as a confirmation and allow both parties to work off the same calendar. Additionally, you should post the Holiday schedule in your home so the kids can see it and know what to expect. Remember, when discussing schedules with your children it is important not to give them the power to decide. Transitions should be smooth and the only surprises that should take place, are those found under the tree on Christmas morning.
4.       Adapt: Being a parent means being able to adapt to the situation. Remember to be flexible during the holiday season as not everyone will plan as well as you. The same family members that just dropped in from out of town or who always showed up late while you were married is still up to their antics. As a result, don’t punish the kids by enforcing a rigid schedule. It may be the only time of the year the kids get to see that family so make it work.
5.       Consideration: Consider your family during this time. When the two of you decided to split, you didn’t ask your family’s permission. However, you should ask permission when making your holiday plans. Make sure that you don’t add too much pressure to your family to be when and where you want them. The season is stressful enough and you don’t want your own family upset because the world now revolves around your divorce.

These are just a few tips and they may not apply to your situation, but remember this, divorce and separation is never easy and you cannot continue to live your life the way it was before. Expenses need to be cut back, activities cut in half, and understanding and cooperation doubled. Whatever your situation may be, you should always consult an attorney before taking drastic action.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Recently I had the opportunity to be lead counsel on the largest white collar crimes case tried by the Attorney General’s office in three (3) years. It was an eight (8) day jury trial that cost tens of thousands of dollars and left 12 jurors deliberating for a day and half. Needless to say, it was a daunting task for any criminal defense attorney. When all was said and done, and the dust had cleared, the Defendant, Edna Kay Jackson, was found guilty on seven (7) counts, not guilty on four (4) counts, and received a complete dismissal on the 12th count. We considered it a victory under the circumstances, and the Defendant now stands a chance of little to no jail time in the wake of the conflicted jury.

However, not everyone will get that story. Initial news coverage reports Jackson to be guilty as charged, with little hope of alleged victims seeing restitution. While the story was better, the truth was lacking, and from the depths of this spin of the truth comes the wayward misconceptions of the public. One particular member of the public was a family member, choosing to give me the silent treatment, and speak poorly of my profession. Again I am disappointed at the perpetual chain of misconception brought forth by the misrepresentations of the media.

Let us be clear that the purpose of the law is to provide justice, not just for victims, but those accused. Just recently my wife found herself wrongly accused of a seemingly meaningless act; a traffic violation that would go uncharged, but would create a sense disappointment in our law enforcement by an otherwise trusting person. I too witnessed that same disappointment in the jury panel of this trial. Of the close to 100 people on the potential jury panel, nearly every hand was raised when asked the question, “Does the fact that the defendant is charged with a crime, make her more likely guilty in your mind?” A yes answer here leaves me deflated and concerned that our system of “innocent until proven guilty” not only lacks in reason, but in application. If not for family members that judge without knowing, if not for media who spins the truth, if not for citizens who assume the worst and have misplaced trust in our government, do we even need attorneys?

I set here today confident in our legal system, but weary of our masses. I only urge the public to do their research and believe what they know, not what they think.  

Harris Law

Harris Law
Welcome to my life in the Law.