Integrity, Understanding, Results

Christmas in July

by Linda Smith 18. July 2013 14:55

 

For some, Christmas in July refers to the summer Christmas themed parties and celebrations that take place at cottages, camp grounds and summer camps during the lazy days of summer. When I speak to my clients about Christmas in July, I mean something entirely different.  Summer is the time when separated parents should talk to each other about parenting arrangements for the upcoming Christmas holiday period.

 

Christmas parenting arrangements tend to pose the biggest challenge for separated parents, particularly recently separated parents who are still struggling with their new reality.  Everyone knows when the Christmas holiday period will be, yet each and every year during the weeks prior to Christmas I receive one or more panic filled requests from parents whose holiday arrangements are still not settled.  

 

Last minute spats about where the children are spending their holiday is problematic on many fronts.  First of all it’s bad for your kids.  What should be a happy and exciting time for them is lost because their parents are fighting about who will be where and when.  It can also be expensive.  Contacting your lawyer at the last minute to negotiate holiday arrangements on an urgent basis is going to be costly.  If all hope is lost and you need to turn to the Family Court for assistance, you may find yourself out of luck, particularly on a last minute basis.  In Ontario, there are very strict rules about what the courts will consider to be an emergency.  Where your children will spend their Christmas holiday may not be an issue that can be dealt with on an urgent or emergency basis.  Court time is also limited.  You simply may not be able to get your matter before a judge on short notice, particularly in the weeks  preceding Christmas, as the courts are clogged with all manner of similar actions by other disgruntled parents.  If a judge does hear your matter, the decision may not be one that works for you or your ex partner.

 

Here are my tips for planning a happy and enjoyable Christmas for you and your children.

 

  1. Start the conversation in July.  Don’t make assumptions. Don’t leave Christmas holiday arrangements to chance.  You and your ex-partner need lots of time to sort out the issue.  You owe it to your kids.  If you and your ex partner can’t sort it out on your own, you will still have adequate time to seek the assistance of other dispute resolution professionals such as a mediator or a  parenting co-ordinator.  If by the end of September you and your ex partner have not agreed in writing to a Christmas schedule you should seek legal advice.   
  2. Put your children first.  Be the adult. Telling your children how sad you or their grandparents will be if they do not spend Christmas stresses out your kids and makes them feel guilty. Don’t engage them in the pity party.  Stay upbeat so that their Christmas can be too, with or without you. 
  3. If you are planning to travel with the children over the holidays, sort out the schedule before you purchase airline tickets or vacation packages.  You might also need time to sort out passport issues and travel consent forms which are becoming more and more necessary for travel with children.
  4. Consider changing your holiday traditions.  Your children cannot be in two places at one time on Christmas morning.  Luckily,  in your children’s eyes, Christmas is an event, not a date.  Be creative and flexible and establish a new special tradition during your time together. 
  5. Spending Christmas without your children can be tough.  If you will not be seeing the children on the actual day, plan ahead.  Give yourself lots of time to organize solo arrangements.  Organize a dinner party, invite friends and family to spend time with you or seek out local charities and volunteer your time. 

 

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Access | Family Law

Facebook and Family Court

by Linda Smith 12. March 2013 14:05

One of the first questions I ask clients who are or are about to be involved in family law litigation is: “Do you have a Facebook account?” 


Facebook and other similar social media sites often tell a far different story about one’s conduct than what a party has entered into evidence in court proceedings.   Is it admissible evidence?  You bet it is. All sorts of electronic communication including emails, voicemails, texts, tweets and anything posted online that is public can be used as evidence if it is relevant to the case.  What you say and do online can have serious implications in Family Court proceedings.


Even though your ex may not be your Facebook friend,  it is possible that you have a mutual friend who is letting your ex log in under their name or view their page.  Remember:  Nothing is private on the internet.  If you would not want to read it on the front page of a national newspaper, don’t post it on Facebook. 


Some common examples of Facebook posts used as evidence in Court include:

Saying vulgar, inappropriate and negative things about the other party; such as calling the father of a child a “sperm donor”.

Checking in from a night club at 1 a.m. when the party is supposed to be caring for a child.

A party telling the Court they don’t have a job and posting on Facebook that they took the day off work.

And then there are the photos;  Facebook photos can be used as evidence of conduct and lifestyle.  Having your friend tag a photo of you holding a beer with 10 empties in the background is damaging and could be used against you. That photo of you and your friends on your last vacation could pop up as contradictory evidence of your lifestyle.   Who can see tags?  More people than you would imagine.  This photo can easily reach a large number of people.  It is likely visible on the timelines of your friends and the friend of anyone else tagged in the photo.

 
All of these things can and regularly do end up before the Court in an Affidavit.

If you are heading off to Family Court, seriously consider whether keeping your Facebook account is in your best interest.  At the very least review your privacy settings and think about who you have on your friends list. Regularly monitor status updates and photos and that you are tagged in to preserve your online reputation.  Learn how to untag yourself.  You may also want to consider enabling Timeline Review in your privacy settings to allow you to review and approve posts from anyone (including your friends) before they appear on your timeline.  There are several helpful websites out there such as www.Lifehacker.com that provide instructions on locking down your Facebook page. 

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Electronic Communication | Family Law

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Smith & Company is a small user friendly law firm conveniently located in downtown Kingston, Ontario. We are committed to providing efficient, cost-effective, quality legal representation in Kingston and the surrounding area.

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